Everyone has the right to make a complaint. You can complain if you feel your rights have been denied or you have received sub-standard care. Raising your concerns directly with the practitioner or health service often works to everyone's benefit.
Writing a letter is one way of bringing your concerns to the attention of the practitioner or health service. A letter allows the practitioner or manager time to consider the issues and prepare a response.
It is usual that a practitioner or manager may take a few weeks to provide a response. If you do not receive a response, you can telephone the person to whom you addressed your letter to find out what is happening with your complaint.
Below are some questions to help you determine what information will be useful to include in your letter. Taking time to think about each of these questions will assist you to express your ideas clearly that improve the likelihood that you will achieve a satisfactory resolution of your concerns.
Who was involved?
Remember to include:
- your own name, address and telephone number
- if you are writing on behalf of someone else, note their name and your relationship to them, eg. friend, son, wife, and whether they know you are writing the letter
- the name and title of the health professional/s involved or the name of the health facility.
Briefly describe the events leading to the complaint and note relevant dates and times.
Where did things go wrong?
Make a list of your specific concerns (eg. breach of confidentiality, lack of information, the health professional was in a hurry). If the list is long, number the items in order of importance.
Why are you making this complaint?
Look back over your list of concerns and note the result you are hoping to achieve (eg. an apology, information about your condition, an explanation, further treatment, to provide feedback about the service you received, changes to improve the service).
What questions would you like answered?
- How do you want your concerns addressed? You might consider a meeting with the health provider to discuss face-to-face the issues you have raised and to work out ways to resolve your concerns.
- Do you want the practitioner or health service to provide a written reply?
- Would you be happy to talk about the matter over the telephone?
If at any time you are not making progress with your letter, you may find it helpful to talk things over with a friend, family member or to have a break and come back later. The letter does not have to be perfect. If you prefer, you can ask to meet with the practitioner or manager of a health service to provide additional information.
Once you have answered the questions above you have the material needed to write a letter of complaint.
It is usually a good idea to read over what you have written to see if there is anything you want to add or change before you sign the letter. Always keep a copy for yourself before sending the letter to the practitioner or manager of the health service.