All staff play an important role in contributing to a positive workplace culture by working in a professional and productive manner. When issues arise, policies and guidance are available to help staff through appropriate resolutions.
NSW Health has a policy framework for managing complaints, depending on the nature and circumstances of the matter. More than one policy may apply to a particular complaint and all complaints are required to be managed in accordance with the relevant legislation and Policy Directive.
Effective complaint handling is underpinned by the following principles:
Managers have a responsibility to create a positive culture within their teams, and to identify, respond to and promptly address issues when they arise.
Staff are encouraged to raise any concerns with their manager where it is practical to do so, or through key personnel within their organisation, such as through human resources, internal audit, or executive management.
The following NSW Health Policy Directives outline the minimum standards in making and responding to concerns raised by NSW Health staff, in particular areas and contexts.
A workplace grievance means a problem, concern, issue or incident raised by a staff member who believes he / she is the subject of unreasonable treatment from the organisation or another person(s) in the workplace.
For workplace grievances between staff members, the NSW Health Policy Directive
Resolving Workplace Grievances (PD2016_046) should be followed.
For bullying allegations, the NSW Health Policy Directive
Prevention and Management of Bullying (PD2021_030) must be followed in conjunction with the
Managing Misconduct Policy Directive.
For complaints about bullying and unacceptable behaviour arising from the junior medical workforce, the NSW Health Policy Directive
Prevention and Management of unacceptable workplace behaviours – JMO module (PD2021_031) should be consulted.
In relation to a complaint or concerns about a clinician, the NSW Health Policy Directive
Managing complaint or concern about a clinician (PD2018_032) must be followed.
This Policy applies to the management of serious complaints or concerns about a specific clinician or clinicians that indicate a potential risk to patient safety and, if found to be substantiated, could result in disciplinary and/or remedial action and/or a notification to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and/or to the relevant NSW Health Professional Council.
This includes complaints and concerns involving alleged or suspected serious performance-related issues.
For complaints involving alleged abuse of an older person, the NSW Health Policy Directive
Identifying and responding to abuse of older people (PD2020_001) may apply.
For corporate or clinical incidents, the NSW Health Policy Directive Incident Management (PD2020_047) must be followed – including where the organisation becomes aware of the incident as a result of a complaint.
For incidents involving patients (including where a complaint provides information indicating that an incident has occurred), the NSW Health Policy Directive
Open Disclosure (PD2014_028) must be followed.
For managing a complaint involving alleged misconduct by a staff member, the NSW Health Policy Directive
Managing Misconduct (PD2018_031) must be followed, including:
This includes making a report to the Child Protection Helpline where there are concerns that a child or young person or a class of children is at risk of significant harm.
Where a complaint alleges misconduct relating to research, the NSW Health Guideline
Research Governance in NSW Public Health Organisations (GL2011_001) should be consulted.
For complaints about a recruitment process within NSW Health, the NSW Health Policy Directive Recruitment and selection of staff to the NSW Health Service ( PD2017_040) applies.
For complaints about serious wrongdoing by public officials the NSW Health Policy Directive
Public Interest Disclosures (PD2016_027) may apply.
Where a complaint indicates that corrupt conduct has, or may have occurred, the NSW Health Policy Directive
Reporting corrupt conduct to ICAC (PD2016_029) must be followed.
For complaints about privacy issues, the NSW Health Guideline
NSW Health Privacy Internal Review Guidelines (GL2019_015) and the
Privacy Manual for Health Information must be followed.
In certain circumstances, it may be appropriate for staff members to contact the Ministry of Health if they are unable to raise concerns locally, or have already escalated concerns through local channels and there has been no outcome.
The Ministry will conduct an initial assessment of the matter and, depending on the nature of the concern, clarity of information provided and the complexity of the matter, may:
If the initial assessment identifies that the health organisation has already appropriately dealt with the matter, the Ministry may not take any further action.
Staff can raise a concern by contacting the ‘Author Branch’ listed on the front page of the relevant policy document listed above for which your concern relates, or make a submission via the
NSW Health website.
The HCCC deals with complaints about all health services and providers in NSW including public and private hospitals, and registered and non-registered health practitioners. They do not deal with matters that are not directly related to health service provision or providers.
All mandatory reports and other notifications to AHPRA concerning NSW registered health practitioners regarding clinical care, performance and conduct are forwarded to the Commission for management. Complaints may also be made directly to the Commission.
They also have the capacity to investigate matters where there are allegations of cover up of clinical issues, improper falsification of clinical documentation, or systemic issues posing a risk to public health and safety.
The HCCC prosecutes registered health practitioners for serious breaches of professional and safety standards in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).
Possible outcomes from a complaint made to the HCCC include:
To find out more about the Health Care Complaints Commission, visit
Health Care Complaints Commission.
You can also raise a concern via the
HCCC’s Complaints Portalor by calling 1800 043 159.
The NSW Ombudsman's Office is an independent and impartial integrity agency. The Ombudsman’s Office (the Ombudsman) watches over most NSW public sector agencies and some community service providers. They help to ensure these organisations and their staff do their jobs properly and meet their responsibilities to the community.
The role of the NSW Ombudsman in relation to complaints and disclosures includes:
Any person can make a complaint to the Ombudsman. Before the Ombudsman considers any action on a complaint, you will usually need to contact the agency first and make a complaint directly to them. However, the Ombudsman can be contacted for advice in this regard for both complaints and Public Interest Disclosures.
To find out more about how to make a complaint to the NSW Ombudsman, visit
NSW Ombudsman - Make a complaint online.