Complaints, Clinical Care, Communication and More: Take-away messages from the Annual Report

In the 2018/19 financial year, the Medical Council received 2,518 complaints about 2,051 doctors – just under 7% of registered medical practitioners in NSW.

Complaints cover a variety of issues and can be made by not only the patient involved, but also by their family and friends, as well as your colleagues and workplace.

Complaint trends have been consistent over the past few years, with common complaint topics of clinical care, communication and prescribing.

The following resources provide useful information and may help you avoid a complaint.

Clinical care

Many complaints regarding treatment are related to doctors providing inappropriate or inadequate treatment, or missed or delayed diagnoses.

Council has published a variety of articles on clinical care that can be found here.

If you have missed or been slow to diagnose a condition, indemnity insurer Avant has put together this article which explains the steps you should take to rectify the issue.


Communication is an integral part of treating patients. How you communicate with your patients can make the difference between a satisfied patient and receiving a complaint. Patients need to feel heard, to understand and give consent to treatments. Likewise, communication between a patient’s treating doctors can ensure a patient receives the most appropriate treatment plan.

The Medical Board’s Code of Conduct includes helpful tips in the chapter Working with patients.

Additionally, the article from our December e-newsletter ‘Is poor peer communication putting your patient at risk?’ examines the impact communication between treating practitioners can have on a patient’s overall care. Previous articles on communication can be found on the best practice section of our website.


Complaints about prescribing and medications don’t just come from patients. Other regulators and health professionals must notify the Council if they believe a doctor is prescribing in a way that constitutes ‘a significant departure from accepted professional standards’.

Council has a range of articles on prescribing, including how to identify doctor shoppers, necessary authorities required and appropriate prescribing of opioids. They can be found on the Good practice section of the website.

RACGP have also produced guidelines on prescribing drugs of dependence.

Download the Medical Council Annual report to see the financial year review, trends, and updates on Council’s undertakings.