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Making a complaint about a psychiatrist

Psychiatrists who are members of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) in Australia and New Zealand must follow the highest standards of ethics and performance, including following the RANZCP's Code of Ethics [PDF; 262 KB].

If you are unhappy with the behaviour of a psychiatrist, or the standard of care you or someone else has received, you can make a complaint.

How to make a complaint

Step 1

Speak to the psychiatrist or your GP about your concerns.

Step 2

If you feel that you can't approach the psychiatrist directly, or if you're not satisfied with the psychiatrist's response:

In Australia (except NSW)

  • Contact your local health complaints commissioner, who is an independent and accessible ombudsman. The commissioners emphasise conciliation in resolving complaints between patients and providers.
  • Alternatively, make a notification to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). AHPRA is responsible for the regulation and accreditation of doctors in Australia. For instructions on how to make a notification, visit the AHPRA website. For assistance, call AHPRA on 1300 419 495 and ask to speak to a Notifications Officer.


  • Lodge a complaint with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). The HCCC acts to protect public health and safety by dealing with complaints about health service providers in NSW. For instructions on how to make a complaint, visit the HCCC website. For assistance, call HCCC on 1800 043 159.

In New Zealand

  • Lodge a complaint with the New Zealand Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC). The HDC is responsible for protecting the rights of health consumers in New Zealand. For instructions on how to make a complaint, visit the HDC website. For assistance, call the HDC on 0800 11 22 33 and ask to speak to a Complaints Assessor.

Step 3

If you believe you have been treated unfairly by AHPRA, the NSW HCCC or the HDC:

In Australia, contact the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman.

In New Zealand, contact the Ombudsman.

What can the RANZCP do?

The RANZCP does not have the authority to investigate complaints it receives about psychiatrists.

Instead, we refer any complaints to the relevant organisation (see above).

However, if you would like to speak to the RANZCP about your complaint, please contact us: 
1800 337 448 (free call from Australia)
0800 443 827 (free call from New Zealand)

Checking registration

Like all other health professionals, psychiatrists must be registered to practise.

You can check that a psychiatrist is registered:

Australian health complaints commissioners

In Australia, AHPRA works with the groups responsible for health complaints in each state and territory.

You may need to contact these organisations for particular types of complaints (for example about access to your health information).

ACT ACT Human Rights Commission

NSW Health Care Complaints Commission

NT Health and Community Services Complaints Commission

QLD Office of the Health Ombudsman

SA Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner

TAS Health Complaints Commissioner

VIC Health Complaints Commissioner

WA Health and Disability Services Complaints Office

Sexual boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship

Psychiatrists must behave ethically when treating patients. A sexual boundary violation by a doctor is a very serious matter. The Medical Board of Australia defines ‘sexual misconduct’ to include any kind of sexual behaviour by the doctor, including sexual touch and suggestive remarks with a patient, former patient, or close relative of a patient.

What should you do if you feel unsafe?

  • speak up
  • leave the appointment / treatment area
  • tell someone you trust
  • consider making a formal complaint
  • if an assault has occurred, report to police

You can also:

  • request another doctor         
  • bring someone else with you to appointments.
  • write down your experience if you don’t feel comfortable acting right away.

The RANZCP takes these matters very seriously and has a zero tolerance policy on proven boundary violations.


  • Psychiatrists must follow the highest standards of ethics and performance.
  • You have the right to make a complaint if you have concerns.
  • The RANZCP can’t investigate complaints but we can refer you to relevant organisations.
Page last reviewed Mar 2017

This is a general guide only, and does not replace individual medical advice. Please speak to your doctor for advice about your situation. The RANZCP is not liable for any consequences arising from relying on this information. Subject matter experts, people with lived experience of mental illness and carers all contributed to this fact sheet.