Our latest Annual Report - What you need to know

The Medical Council of NSW received 3078 complaints about 2460 doctors in 2022/23 with complaints and notifications made about 6% of the state’s 40,356 medical practitioners. There were also 117 mandatory notifications made about 104 medical practitioners (0.26% of NSW practitioners), and 84% of complaints were discontinued at initial assessment. 

The most common complaint category is about clinical care, followed by communication and pharmaceuticals/medication.  While patients were most likely to raise a complaint, family members, other service providers, and health professionals were also a source of referrals to the Council.  

The Medical Council aims to support NSW doctors to practice safely and to high standard expected of the profession by the community. There are proactive steps that all practitioners can take to reduce the likelihood of a complaint. Here are some resources that can help minimise the risk of a complaint and where to find more information on each of the top complaint categories. 

Clinical care 
The most common concerns surrounding clinical care included:  

  • Inadequate or inappropriate treatment 37%
  • Missed or delayed diagnosis complaint 15%
  • Inadequate or inappropriate procedure 11% 

The Council has an extensive list of articles designed to support best practice clinical care. They can be found at the top of our good practice resources.  

Effective communication is important for patient safety. Complaints related to poor communication have overtaken complaints in pharmaceuticals and medication categories. Communication complaints mostly relate to: 

  • Disrespectful manner complaint 45% 
  • Failure to communicate openly, honestly, and effectively 26% 
  • Insensitive or inappropriate comments 22%  

Communication with other team members especially within multi-disciplinary medical teams, and situations such as patient handover from hospital to primary care and vice versa are also very important and link to effective record keeping. Supporting psychologically safe workplaces and respectful communication with colleagues also supports patient safety. You can read more about the effects of psychological safety in medicine here

The Medical Board’s Code of Conduct, which applies to all doctors, addresses communication in the chapter working with patients, You can also explore articles on communication in the best practice section of the Medical Council website.  

The most common concerns about prescribing include: 

  • Inappropriate prescribing complaint 40% 
  • Refusal to prescribe or dispense 20% 
  • Inaccurate prescribing complaint 12% 

The Medical Council and other regulators have resources on best practice prescribing, including required authorities and appropriate prescribing of s8 and restricted medications in NSW.  

The Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit, which regulates this area has up-to-date information for prescribers, in addition to the RACGP’s guidelines on prescribing drugs of dependence. The Council also has relevant articles in our medicines and prescribing section.  

You can read the full NSW Health Professional Councils Authority Annual Report 2022/23 for detailed information about complaints, notifications and the work in the section relating to the NSW Medical Council.  

The Medical Council of NSW received notifications and complaints about 6% of the state’s 40,356 medical practitioners