Report: Half of medical complaints not followed up

Date: Jun 30, 2014

According to a NSW parliamentary review, close to half of all medical complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) are not followed up.

Over the past five years, complaints to the commission have increased more than 35 per cent to 4,554 in 2013, but the number of staff available to investigate these claims has remained static. The review found 47.3 per cent of complaints in the last year have not been followed because most were "not serious enough".

As well as this, the review found just 3 per cent of NSW doctors were responsible for 49 per cent of complaints. This indicates that medical negligence and misconduct claims are common among certain doctors and further investigations are needed.

In one-quarter of these complaints, it was revealed that the commission passed on complaints to other agencies. Instead of following up to see whether there was a conclusion, the case was labeled as "finalised". 

The Opposition's health spokesman, Andrew McDonald, told ABC online that the these issues stem from the lack of funding.

"We need a properly funded and staffed Health Care Complaints Commission – it's vital for patient safety," he said.

However, Assistant Minister for Health Jai Rowell explained that the commission's budget has been increased by 13.4 per cent since the latest government came into power and that the HCCC is capable of completing its tasks.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said a number of cases before the commission had been dropped as medical practitioners leave their job before the investigation is complete.  

"That is the advice that I received from the HCCC, that doctors are seeing the writing on the wall and they're going to the register and saying, 'we wish to be removed or have our practices restricted," she told ABC online.

Male doctors target of complaints

According to the review, ageing male doctors are the main target of complaints from patients. A majority of the cases relate to doctors with older practices and techniques or those who were beginning to misdiagnose symptoms.

Commissioner Kieran Pehm told Fairfax Media that many didn't 'appreciate their practice is out of date …. [or] realise he is becoming impaired and there is a bit of denial about that.

Medical negligence compensation

Patients that developed further complications due to misdiagnosis could be eligible for medical negligence compensation and are urged to contact a lawyer that can help them with their claim.

As medical negligence compensation is a complex situation, it is best to take your claim directly to a lawyer. It is also important to record anything that could help your claim. If your negligence lawyer has access to all relevant information, then you are more likely to be successful in your case.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.