Public complaints (DHW Annual Report 2020 - 21)

Department for Health and Wellbeing Annual Report 2020-21

In this section

Number of public complaints reported

The information provided below is comprised of all SA Health complaints received, inclusive of LHNs and SAAS. LHNs and SAAS may also report their local public complaints within their own 2020-21 annual report.

In 2020-21, the number of SA Health complaints reported in the Safety Learning System (SLS) Consumer Feedback module was 8,328. The table below shows the number of complaints received for each category.

type and number of complaints
Complaint categories Sub-categories Example Number of complaints
Professional behaviour Staff attitude Failure to demonstrate values such as empathy, respect, fairness, courtesy, extra mile; cultural competency 1,143
Professional behaviour Staff competency Failure to action service request; poorly informed decisions; incorrect or incomplete service provided 103
Professional behaviour Staff knowledge Lack of service specific knowledge; incomplete or out-of-date knowledge 0
Communication Communication quality Inadequate, delayed or absent communication with customer 910
Communication Confidentiality Customer’s confidentiality or privacy not respected; information shared incorrectly
Service delivery Systems/technology System offline; inaccessible to customer; incorrect result/information provided; poor system design 351
Service delivery Access to services Service difficult to find; location poor; facilities/ environment poor standard; not accessible to customers with disabilities 205
Service delivery Process Processing error; incorrect process used; delay in processing application; process not customer responsive
Policy Policy application Incorrect policy interpretation; incorrect policy applied; conflicting policy advice given 0
Policy Policy content Policy content difficult to understand; policy unreasonable or disadvantages customer 0
Service quality Information Information difficult to understand, hard to find or difficult to use; not plain English 7
Service quality Access to information Information difficult to understand, hard to find or difficult to use; not plain English
Service quality Timelines Lack of staff punctuality; excessive waiting times (outside of service standard); timelines not met 1,595
Service quality Safety Maintenance; personal or family safety; duty of care not shown; poor security service/ premises; poor cleanliness 234
Service quality Service responsiveness Service design doesn’t meet customer needs; poor service fit with customer expectations 437
No case to answer No case to answer Third party; customer misunderstanding; redirected to another agency; insufficient information to investigate 0
Coordination of treatment; diagnosis; inadequate treatment; medication 2,014
Billing practices; subsidies; information on costs 282
Administration Services; Lost property 202
Un-coded and not available
Un-coded complaints 451


Complaints additional metrics
Additional metrics Total
Number of positive feedback comments
Number of negative feedback comments 9,023
Total number of all feedback comments 16,833
% complaints resolved within policy timeframes

All consumer feedback including complaints, compliments, advice and suggestions are recorded in the SA Health SLS Consumer Feedback module.

SLS classifications are based on the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, mapped to the South Australian Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner Charter of Rights. The information and complaint categories have been mapped as closely as possible to the report against these categories specified by Department of the Premier and Cabinet.

Data for previous years is available at:

Service improvements

SA Health encourages patients, consumers, families, carers and the community to provide feedback. We want to hear what is good, what is bad and what we can do to make the health care services better. Feedback drives safety and quality improvement in our health care services.

In March 2021, the SA Health Consumer, Carer and Community Feedback and Complaints Management Strategic Framework, Guide and Resources were released. The Framework enables consumers, carers and the community to contribute to improving health care services through open communication and shared learning.

Consumer resources include:

  • Framework overview outlines our vision, mission, goals and principles for consumer, carer and community feedback
  • Your feedback is important information sheet which outlines the process for consumer feedback and provides local health care service contact details
  • When you share your feedback and experience is an infographic which outlines the elements of consumer feedback management
  • How to write a letter of complaint to your health service provider.

Guide and resources include:

  • Staff information complaints handling
  • Staff information on compliments, suggestions and advice
  • Complaint management process flowchart
  • Severity Assessment Measure (SAM) - all complaints vary in complexity and severity. The Severity Assessment Measure (SAM) is a numerical score applied to a complaint, based on the severity of the event that triggered the complaint. Severity can be measured as either extreme, major, moderate or minor and outlines key stakeholders/actions taken by relevant staff to manage the complaint.
  • SA Health and national complaint categories and sub-categories
  • Charter of rights aligned to complaint categories
  • Goals measurement analysis
  • Complaint management self-assessment guide.

As part of the annual Service Level Agreements with LHNs, Safety and Quality Account reports are to be submitted to the department. LHN’s provide an overview of their complaints management system including:

  • Performance in relation to feedback from patients, carers, families and the community about their experience and outcome of care
  • Aggregate and trend analysis of all complaints
  • Timeliness of acknowledgement and resolution of consumer feedback
  • How information from analysis of consumer feedback informs improvements in safety and quality systems
  • Effectiveness and accessibility of patients, carers, families and member of the community to provide feedback
  • Demonstrating consistency with best practice principles.

LHNs and SAAS have implemented many service improvements across their network from consumer feedback and complaints within this period. Examples of service improvements will be reported in their individual annual reports.

Compliance Statement
Compliance Statement
The Department for Health and Wellbeing is compliant with Premier and Cabinet Circular 039 – complaint management in the South Australian public sector Y
The Department for Health and Wellbeing has communicated the content of PC 039 and the agency’s related complaints policies and procedures to employees. Y