On this page
In 2020, we commissioned an external expert to review our updated complaints approach. Areas specifically reviewed were the visibility, accessibility, responsiveness, restorative approach, independence, confidentiality, accountability, monitoring with a centralised, anonymous data collection with an analysis process, protection for those who make the complaint and prevention of victimisation. For more information, read the report and recommendations (PDF 386.3KB) (PDF 386.3KB).
RACS enquiries, concerns and complaints framework is relevant to our profession, our role and our commitment to building respect and improving patient safety.
There is a clear role for the College, employers and other agencies which have different legal powers. RACS:
- Provides support to people who raise enquiries, concerns and complaints, and those who are subject to them.
- Focuses on helping build a culture of respect, including in our handling of concerns about bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment.
- Supports the referral of some complaints to the agency best placed to deal effectively with it.
To get to the best outcome quickly and avoid duplicated effort, we make sure that all concerns and complaints are handled by the agency best placed to manage them. We support referrals to external agencies (including employers, health complaints commissions and regulators) which have the legal powers needed to handle these matters effectively.
If this complaint is due to RACS Global Health services, RACS will support the complaint process in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. RACS Global Health will also support referral to the most appropriate agency of the host country recipient if the complaint is regarding in-country services.
Usually, RACS has an advisory, feedback and support role, reflecting the vision and purpose of our College. We foster profession-led conversations that are collegial and non-judgemental and aim to encourage self-reflection and behaviour change. Our Executive Director for Surgical Affairs (EDSA) in Australia and Surgical Advisor (SA) in Aotearoa New Zealand are involved in offering advice and support when complaints are made. RACS Specialist Training Committees are involved when there is an issue with a training post and our Professional Conduct Committee has a role in the most serious cases.
RACS approach is informal and non-judgmental, aimed at supporting individuals and building a culture of respect. It balances our duty of care to our Fellows, Trainees, SIMGs and the public to provide a safe environment, our responsibility to provide a procedurally fair and timely process, our professional commitment to build a culture of respect and our legal and ethical responsibilities as a College.
RACS Global Health
RACS Global Health is an active member of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and adheres to the ACFID Code of Conduct, which defines minimum standards of governance, management, and accountability of development for non-government organisations (NGOs). For any complaints relating to a breach of the ACFID Code of Conduct, please report via
For the purposes of the operations of Global Health, RACS is a signatory to the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Code of Conduct and is committed to recognising the importance and value of listening and responding to concerns and complaints in a safe and confidential manner. (Commitment 7.3.3. ACFID Code of Conduct)
RACS Global Health is committed to take into consideration the needs of the most vulnerable and considers minority and disadvantaged stakeholders.
What we do
Our Support and Complaints team talks through all enquiries, concerns and complaints with the person who contacts us. Sometimes, this conversation helps clarify that other agencies are better placed to deal with the issue. We can support this referral.
Sometimes, the person raising the issue wants to make a formal written complaint, but not every inquiry is formalised in this way.
We keep a record of all complaints and feedback raised with us. We are committed to assessing and managing all concerns to ensure they are treated promptly and fairly. Each enquiry, concern and complaint is unique and is handled individually, based on the information provided. We work with the person raising the issue, to make sure RACS has the information it needs.
If the matter is better handled by another agency with relevant legal powers, we support these referrals. We provide information about where to raise the matter and how to do it. We can support the person raising the issue and the person responding to it.
In some cases, there are also things RACS can do. We can support professionalism through a profession-led conversation. We can work with our Specialty Training Committees through the training post accreditation process when there are concerns about the safety of a training position.
What other agencies do
Many agencies in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand have a role in managing complaints about surgeons. In general:
- Local health care complaints commissions, the health ombudsman and the health disability commission in Aotearoa New Zealand handle patient concerns, often about the outcomes from surgery, surgical fees and requests for compensation.
- Employers (hospitals and health services) handle concerns about discrimination, bullying (egregious and repeated) and sexual harassment.
- Regulators (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), the Medical Board of Australia and the Te Kaunihera Rata o Aotearoa Medical Council of New Zealand) deal with serious concerns about patient safety and professional performance.
- Police handle crimes.
Within RACS, but outside the enquiries, concerns, complaints and feedback process:
- The Reconsideration, Review & Appeal (RRA) process handles appeals of RACS assessment decisions.
- The Professional Conduct Committee handles the most serious matters, when another agency with legislative powers has made a formal adverse finding. There is a clear threshold and natural justice principals for these referrals.
There is a significant body of evidence showing that it is very helpful to provide timely, non-judgemental feedback to a surgeon whose behaviour has caused concern or distress to someone else. Simply letting them know that someone was adversely affected by their behaviour or conduct, without judging it or trying to work out who is right, triggers reflection and positive change. Sometimes, the surgeon was unaware that their behaviour or language had caused distress.
We use this approach when managing some of the enquiries and concerns raised with us. Often, the person who has raised the concern only wants the problem fixed or the behaviour changed. The surgeon who receives the feedback usually reflects on their behaviour, gains new insights, understands the impact it has had and modifies their behaviour.
Our Executive Director for Surgical Affairs in Australia and Surgical Advisor in Aotearoa New Zealand are Fellows of the College and lead this approach. It is consistent with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. It is collegial and non-judgemental and aims to encourage self-reflection and behaviour change.
RACS’ values of Service, Integrity, Respect, Compassion and Collaboration guide the standards and behaviours we expect of our Fellows, Trainees and SIMGs. Our Code of Conduct (PDF 4.44MB) sets out the College’s expectations and our Equal Opportunity and Acceptable Workplace Behaviour Policy outlines our position.
We are committed to assessing and managing your enquiries, concerns and complaints to ensure they are treated promptly and fairly. Each issue raised is unique and is addressed individually on the information provided.
We’re committed to excellence in customer service and will do our best to respond in a timely manner. We will keep you informed during the stages of the process.
If you are concerned about a health practitioner who may be putting public safety at risk, you may submit your concerns directly to Ahpra or Te Kaunihera Rata o Aotearoa Medical Council of New Zealand
Anyone can make a voluntary notification about a health practitioner, but by law, registered health practitioners, employers and education providers must make a mandatory notification in some limited circumstances. Mandatory notifications help to protect the public by ensuring that Ahpra and Te Kaunihera Rata o Aotearoa Medical Council New Zealand and the National Boards are alerted to any potential risks to the public.