Capture the Complaint
It has been reported that complaints relating to registered health practitioners increased over the 2021/2022 financial year. Further (and separately), in aged care, there was a total of 2,767 complaints made in the first quarter of 2022 and 2,642 complaints in the second quarter. Both these figures had also trended upwards compared with the corresponding numbers in 2021 (with 2,313 in the first quarter of 2021 and 2,261 in the second quarter).
However, complaints are informative and should be embraced as an important aspect of clinical governance, as they provide a lens which we would otherwise not have over the delivery of care and services. Good clinical governance is person-centred (therefore, what a person thinks absolutely matters), and complaints help identify problems (and potential problems) and opportunities for improvement – remembering that clinical governance is about continuous improvement.
Not only can complaints identify conduct which may not be in accordance with person-centred care – or worse, breach professional boundaries or be criminal in nature – but they can unveil system inadequacies or weaknesses. Information from complaints can also feed into assessment of compliance – and in aged care, may trigger a ‘serious incident’ report, given a mere allegation suffices in the context of its Serious Incident Response Scheme. Whilst a complaint may herald an incident, complaints should also be regarded as incidents in and of themselves - in that, at the very least, they potentially represent a failure of person-centred care.
Therefore, albeit complaints should always be responded to, the information they offer ought to be effectively collected, managed, monitored and reported internally through effective incident management systems (such as that prescribed for aged care by Division 2 of the Quality of Care Principles 2014). The National Disability Insurance Scheme also requires NDIS providers to develop effective incident management systems - and Action 1.11 of the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards for health service organisations specifically requires a robust approach to incident management and investigation.
The more we are able to understand complaints and what drives them, and the trends and themes they communicate, the more we can understand about the quality and safety of care and services we provide, and the more we can continuously improve – hence not only avoid harm, but deliver person-centred care.
All accessed on 9/12/22 at:
K. Aubusson. ‘Medical complaints increase as patients hold doctors to account’. The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 2022. Accessed at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/medical-complaints-increase-as-patients-hold-doctors-to-account-20221123-p5c0pp.html
‘1 January to 31 March 2022 Sector Performance Data’. Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Accessed at: https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/media/91956
‘Sector performance report – April-June 2022’. Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Accessed at: https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/media/92689
‘1 January to 31 March 2021 Sector Performance Data’. Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Accessed at: https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/media/90284
‘1 April – 30 June 2021 Sector Performance Data’. Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Accessed at: 1 April – 30 June 2021 Sector Performance Data | Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
Section 15NA of the Quality of Care Principles 2014.
‘Resources to support incident reporting, management and prevention.' NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. Accessed at: Resources to support incident reporting, management and prevention | NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (ndiscommission.gov.au)
‘Action 1.11’. Australia Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Accessed at: Action 1.11 | Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care