//Office of the Health Ombudsman annual report for 2022–2023 tabled today

Office of the Health Ombudsman annual report for 2022–2023 tabled today

28 September 2023

The Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) has identified increased complexity and serious matters as key factors in managing health service complaints in Queensland during the 2022–2023 financial year.

Although the OHO received fewer complaints in 2022–2023 (8,615 compared to 9,618 in 2021–2022), there was an overall increase in seriousness and complexity of matters.

For example, 20 per cent of matters that progressed through the Assessment function in 2022-23 were categorised as high risk or ‘priority matters’, compared to 14 per cent in the previous year.

A complaint is considered a priority matter if for example, there has been a significant adverse treatment outcome including serious harm or death, serious conduct and/or performance concerns, sensitive consumer vulnerabilities or the complaint involves a First Nations person(s) and requires culturally safe management.

“The increase in the number of priority matters being managed clearly demonstrates the OHO’s vital role in addressing serious risks to public health and safety and maintaining public confidence,” Health Ombudsman Dr Lynne Coulson Barr OAM said.

“The rise in complaint complexity and serious matters had a flow-on effect across the OHO, resulting in an overall increase in assessment, investigative and regulatory action taken in 2022–2023.”

“Despite these circumstances, the OHO continued to maintain its strong operational performance throughout the reporting period,” she said.

There were 76 immediate action decisions made in relation to both registered and unregistered health practitioners in 2022–2023, an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year.

Additionally, 22 permanent prohibition orders were issued to address serious risks posed by unregistered health practitioners.

The OHO commenced 232 investigations and streamlined several measures to improve efficiencies in completing investigations in conjunction with the Queensland Police Service and Queensland Courts, which led to 179 investigations being finalised in 2022–2023.

Two systemic investigations were completed and published on the OHO website in May 2023 relating to tragic outcomes and significant concerns in the health service provision at Doomadgee Rural Hospital and the local Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Service, Gidgee Healing.

The annual report also revealed the OHO’s future aspirations as detailed in the Office of the Health Ombudsman 2023–2027 Strategic Plan, which was delivered during the 2023–2024 financial year and launched on 1 July 2023.

Dr Coulson Barr said the new strategic plan articulates the OHO’s purpose to protect and support the community through responsive complaints processes and regulatory action, and to drive positive change and confidence in the health system.

The plan emphasises the OHO’s commitment to human rights and to recognising, respecting and valuing Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultures, and providing a culturally safe, trauma-informed and sensitive complaints management service.

The OHO will continue to deliver a transformation of its systems and processes to support transparency of data to identify trends and areas of concern to influence change.

Other key highlights from the OHO’s 2022–2023 annual report include:

  • The OHO outperformed on 3 of the 6 key performance measures including: ‘complaints received and accepted within 7 days’ (97 per cent), ‘disciplinary matters in which Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) decides there is a case to answer’ (100 per cent) and ‘immediate action decisions upheld by QCAT at review hearings’ (100 per cent).
  • Health professions that accounted for the highest percentage of complaints received were medical practitioners (56 per cent), nurses (16 per cent) and psychologists (6 per cent).
  • Health service organisations that accounted for the highest percentage of complaints received were public hospitals (36 per cent), correctional facilities (23 per cent) and medical centres (10 per cent).

Download a copy of the OHO annual report (PDF 23MB)