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Health consumers

Conciliating a complaint

Conciliation is a confidential and free complaint resolution service.


The conciliation process

If, after assessing your complaint, we decide conciliation is suitable, we will contact both you and the provider to confirm your participation.

While our approach may vary depending on the case, your conciliator will:

  • clearly explain our process, including our obligations in relation to public interest matters raised before or during the conciliation
  • clearly explain how your privacy and rights are protected by law
  • identify what outcomes both you and the provider will be satisfied with
  • suggest options to achieve those outcomes, such as facilitating a meeting between both parties, or holding a teleconference
  • give you accurate and regular updates on your case
  • promptly pass on opinions, offers and decisions.

If your complaint is about a clinical matter, we may seek an independent opinion from an expert clinician, if you and the provider agree to this.

The clinician will be given all the necessary information to help them form an opinion on whether the provider:

  • used reasonable care and skill
  • provided a service that was ‘good practice’.

These independent opinions are subject to our confidentiality laws.

If you and the health service provider agree to participate in conciliation, you must both do so in good faith. This can mean:

  • agreeing to meet reasonable timeframes
  • agreeing on the issues to be conciliated
  • attending meetings
  • following negotiation procedures agreed by both parties
  • disclosing relevant information.

During conciliation both you and the provider can speak openly and directly to each other about your complaint.


Why agree to conciliate?

Conciliation is a good way to resolve complex complaints, particularly those that require detailed explanations or confidential dispute resolution.

Conciliation is voluntary

While conciliation is voluntary, we would encourage you to participate as it is an effective way of resolving complaints informally and quickly. You are able to withdraw from conciliation at any time.

Conciliation is free

Conciliation is informal and free. You can choose to have a lawyer present, but you don’t need to have legal representation.

You can speak openly and directly

Anything said or information given during conciliation (other than something that reveals a public interest matter) cannot be used as evidence in a court, tribunal or by a disciplinary body.

We are impartial

You will be guided through the process by our independent and impartial conciliators. They help progress conciliation, but don’t take sides or make judgements. Our conciliators cannot force agreement or award compensation.

Conciliation is flexible

You can choose to conciliate in various ways, through face-to-face meetings (held in convenient, private locations), teleconference, letters, emails or faxes.

Public interest

We are obliged to consider and investigate public interest matters that arise during conciliation. We will tell you if a matter of public interest is identified before or during conciliation. We are able to use otherwise confidential and privileged information given during the conciliation to determine appropriate action on public interest issues and refer to other agencies where necessary.


Ending conciliation early

We may end the process if:

  • it appears that no agreement can be reached between the parties
  • the complaint involves a matter of public interest, such as a health practitioner whose health, conduct or performance must be addressed.

The complaint is resolved

You and the health service provider agree on a resolution, which may include:

Explanation

You can request a detailed explanation to help you understand what happened and why. This can often resolve a dispute.

Changes in practice, policy or procedure

During conciliation, you and the provider may agree on ways to improve their health service. This can prevent the same thing happening to someone else, as well as improve healthcare quality.

Apology

Conciliation can encourage a provider to acknowledge deficiencies in their practice and apologise to you for any harm caused. Apologies and acknowledgements cannot be used in court or other proceedings.

Compensation

It is possible to discuss compensation in conciliation. Compensation is limited to out-of-pocket expenses and/or corrective treatment costs. You may also discuss a refund or fee waiver. This must be negotiated and agreed by both parties. Your conciliator cannot decide or award compensation.

We will give you and the provider a results report on the outcome of the conciliation.


The complaint is not resolved

If full agreement can’t be reached and your complaint is not resolved, your conciliator may recommend that we:

  • refer the complaint to the provider’s registration board
  • investigate the complaint further
  • take no further action.

If conciliation does not resolve your complaint you still have the right to take legal action, but there are strict timeframes. You may need legal advice.