Understanding Complaints

Why do people complain?

Because there’s a problem that needs a solution.
Service users (often referred to by providers as patients, consumers, or clients) complain because they feel that something has gone wrong and they would like you to participate in fixing it. They want you to value their feedback and use the information you receive to improve your services. This is a positive thing; no matter how skilled and experienced you are as a professional, nobody’s perfect.
Continuous improvement is a key part of providing excellent service. By identifying areas for improvement, your clients are helping you do just that.
The complaints process helps you:
  • Satisfy users of your service by being responsive to their concerns
  • Increase your understanding of service users’ perspectives
  • Build trust and confidence among service users, their families, caregivers, and advocates
  • Develop professionally by making continuous improvements to the services that you deliver and the way you deliver them
  • Highlight areas for future improvements. Depending on the type of service you provide and the setting in which you work, this may help you access new avenues for funding.
The complaints process provides a roadmap for problem-solving
A clear, well-defined complaints process gives you and your staff a clear idea of what to expect when a client or patient has a complaint. Similarly, it gives the person making the complaint a clear understanding of how to approach and what they can expect from you during the complaint process. This makes it easier for you to solve problems quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction.
The right to complain is defined by law
Under the Health and Community Services Complaints Act 2004, service users can make complaints about an individual person, or an organisation providing a public, private or non-government health or community service in South Australia. The Act’s purpose is to enable people to make complaints about health or community service providers and to provide a process for these complaints to be resolved. It protects service users’ right to complain by providing penalties for any person trying to intimidate a complainant or witness.
What can people complain about?
Service users can complain about any aspect of their interaction with you. This may include difficulties in accessing a service, administrative issues, communication difficulties, inappropriate behavior, lack of respect for individual rights or issues related to the treatment or care itself.
Under the Act, service users have the right to complain about:
  • Health and community services provided at places such as community health centres, health clinics, private clinics, hospitals and supported accommodation.
  • Health care and treatment received from practitioners, including registered health professionals such as doctors, nurses and dentists and unregistered health practitioners such as acupuncturists, naturopaths and masseurs.
  • Child protection services including investigations, case management, alternative care arrangements and therapy. (However, they cannot complain about court decisions or notifiers.)
  • Other community services such as disability services, in-home support, respite care and counselling.
We can receive complaints from service users ranging in age from young children to elderly people. Family members, caregivers, advocates or anyone nominated by the service user can make a complaint to us.