About this inquiry

The committee considered this inquiry in the 44th Parliament. The inquiry lapsed at the dissolution of the Senate on 9 May 2016.

On 15 September 2016, the Senate agreed to re-adopt the inquiry with a reporting date of 16 November 2016.

The committee has resolved not to call for new submissions but to rely on submissions received during the 44th Parliament. All correspondence and evidence previously received for this inquiry has been made available to the new committee.  This means that submissions already provided to the committee about this issue do not need to be re-submitted.

On 2 February 2016, the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report:

The medical complaints process in Australia.

The terms of reference are:

  1. the prevalence of bullying and harassment in Australia’s medical profession;
  2. any barriers, whether real or perceived, to medical practitioners reporting bullying and harassment;
  3. the roles of the Medical Board of Australia, the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency and other relevant organisations in managing investigations into the professional conduct (including allegations of bullying and harassment), performance or health of a registered medical practitioner or student;
  4. the operation of the Health Practitioners Regulation National Law Act 2009 (the National Law), particularly as it relates to the complaints handling process;
  5. whether the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, established under the National Law, results in better health outcomes for patients, and supports a world-class standard of medical care in Australia;
  6. the benefits of ‘benchmarking’ complaints about complication rates of particular medical practitioners against complication rates for the same procedure against other similarly qualified and experienced medical practitioners when assessing complaints;
  7. the desirability of requiring complainants to sign a declaration that their complaint is being made in good faith; and
  8. any related matters.

Please note the committee has published a guide to interpreting the terms of reference, which is available on the main terms of reference page.

Submissions were sought by 13 May 2016. The reporting date is 16 November 2016. On 10 November 2016, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting until 30 November 2016.

Past Public Hearings

22 Nov 2016: Canberra, ACT
01 Nov 2016: Sydney, NSW



Medical complaints process in Australia

30 November 2016

© Commonwealth of Australia 2016
ISBN 978-1-76010-483-2

View the report as a single document - (PDF 603KB)

View the report as separate downloadable parts:

Chapter 1 - Introduction (PDF 168KB)

Bullying and harassment in the Australian medical profession
Focus of the inquiry
National regulation and accreditation of medical practitioners
Figure 1.1 – National Registration and Accreditation Scheme
Conduct of the inquiry

Chapter 2 - The complaints process as a tool of harassment (PDF 196KB)

Complaints procedures
Figure 2.1 – AHPRA notification process
Vexatious complaints as a form of bullying and harassment
Concerns with AHPRA's complaints process
Conclusion and committee view

Chapter 3 - Bullying and harassment in the medical profession (PDF 144KB)

Prevalence of bullying and harassment
Box 3.1 – Royal Australasian College of Surgeons – Expert Advisory Group on discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment
Box 3.2 – Definitions of bullying and harassment
Box 3.3 – Sexual harassment
Committee view
Barriers to reporting bullying and harassment
Addressing bullying and harassment
Need for greater coordination
Committee view

Chapter 4 - Responses and recommendations (PDF 49KB)

New areas for inquiry
Conclusion and recommendations

APPENDIX 1 - Submissions and additional information received by the Committee (PDF 24KB)
APPENDIX 2 - Public hearings (PDF 10KB)

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3515
Fax: +61 2 6277 5829