Mental Health Complaints Guidelines

Providing access to a transparent complaint handling process and managing complaints in an efficient and positive manner is an essential part of delivering an effective mental health service. Implementing best practice processes for handling complaints can help service providers:

  • Improve the quality of care being delivered.
  • Gain insights into the needs and wants of consumers.
  • Address minor issues before they become complaints.
  • Build positive relationships with consumers and their families, friends and representatives.

Mental health service providers are required under the Mental Health Act 2014 to implement their own complaints process for investigating any complaint made about the provision of a mental health service. This is further supported in Principle 13 of the Charter of Mental Health Care Principles which provides:

A mental health service must provide, and clearly explain, information about legal rights, including those relating to representation, advocacy, complaints procedures, services and access to personal information, in a way that will help people experiencing mental illness to understand, obtain assistance and uphold their rights. HaDSCO has developed the Guidelines for handling complaints about mental halth services (the Guidelines) for service providers to use as a reference tool and develop complaint handling systems appropriate to the needs of their organisation. At HaDSCO, we adopt a positive approach to complaint handling as we recognise the inherent value of complaints in terms of opportunities for improvement across the health, disability and mental health sectors. HaDSCO encourages service providers to embrace a positive approach to complaint handling for continuous service improvement and to meet the needs of the users of their service.

Overall, it is clear from the complaints that HaDSCO receives that service providers aim to provide a good quality of care for individuals that use their services. There are times, however, when things do not go quite the way they should and this could be for a range of reasons, from a simple misunderstanding to something more serious. In most situations, the service provider is keen to put things right and therefore it is important that they have in place a system which allows them to do so. If a complaint handling system is already in place, then perhaps HaDSCO’s Guidelines will provide some useful tips and tools to enhance that system.  

The Guidelines are based on a simple framework RECEIVE, RESOLVE and REFORM which is reflected in HaDSCO’s Strategic Plan and incorporates the guiding principles from the Australian/New Zealand Standard – Guidelines for complaint management in organisations (AS/NZS 10002:2014).

The Guidelines aim to provide practical, succinct and easy to understand information for service providers and include the following support documentation in the form of templates, strategies and forms which are found in the Guidelines Appendices:

Appendices - Templates and resources:



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