HEALTH CARE COMPLAINTS SYSTEMS
In all states prior to 1984, complaints against doctors were generally lodged with medical boards. Boards were obliged under the relevant Medical Acts to investigate and assess the complaints and determine whether an established complaint represented unprofessional conduct under their Act. Some complaints were made also to state branches of the AMA and to the state Health Departments.
During the 1980s there was dissatisfaction with the health complaints processes in several states, especially in regard to their fragmented nature and difficulties in access, difficulties in knowing where to complain, and a realisation that complainants' needs were not always met when the complaints were determined by a medical board according to the terms of the relevant Act. In New South Wales the response to such dissatisfaction was the establishment in 1984 of a Health Complaints Unit within the Health Department, and in Victoria the passing of the Health Services (Conciliation and Review) Act 1987. This Act established the office of the Health Services Commissioner who was charged with receiving complaints from users of health services about providers and given the power to conciliate them confidentially.
In 1991 the Health Rights Commission Act 1991 established the Office of the Health Rights Commissioner in Queensland. In 1993 the Health Complaints Act 1993 established the Office of the Commissioner for Health Complaints in the ACT. In the same year the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 of New South Wales established a Health Care Complaints Commission which subsumed the role of the previous Health Complaints Unit and took on additional power to conciliate complaints. The systems in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT are now very similar, with the exception that in New South Wales, the Health Care Complaints Commission is responsible in addition for investigating allegations of unprofessional con-