D.5 Legal Services Directions

The Health Directorate is committed to upholding the principles of the Model Litigant Guidelines by acting honestly, fairly and with propriety in the conduct of all civil claims and litigation, arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution processes.

The Health Directorate understands its role as a model litigant and places significant emphasis on maintaining effective communication with healthcare consumers who have complaints about, or have suffered adverse outcomes as a result of, treatment in the public health service. Open communication may also minimise the need for consumers to seek resolution of complaints or claims through formal legal avenues.

The Health Directorate is committed to responding to complaints about public sector health services in a timely and systematic manner. Complaints are a valuable part of the quality improvement system, which aims to optimise patient care and safety, promote positive system changes and ensure resolution of the complaint to the satisfaction of the consumer, where possible.

Consumers are invited to provide feedback about the care they received at the point of service, or by telephone, letter or email, or through the Health Directorate internet site. The Health Directorate has an independent Consumer Feedback and Engagement Team (CFET) and ensures that all consumer feedback is responded to and resolved, where possible, in a timely manner. The CFET acknowledges consumer complaints within five working days, coordinates investigations and aims to inform the consumer of the outcome within 35 calendar days. If the consumer is not satisfied with the response to their complaint, the consumer is advised of assistance available though the ACT Human Rights Commission (HRC). The HRC provides an independent means for dealing with complaints about health services, through the Health Services Commissioner.

In some instances, an alternative method of dispute resolution such as conciliation is considered. This involves the HRC acting as an impartial third party to help the consumer and health staff clarify issues and resolve matters raised in a complaint. Sometimes, in resolving a complaint, a financial settlement may be considered and agreed to in a formally binding agreement, reducing the risk of complaints developing into legal claims and thereby reducing claim costs for both parties.

The Health Directorate acknowledges that early resolution of a claim not only can have benefits for the plaintiff's health and wellbeing but also reduces the costs associated with litigation. The Health Directorate is committed to working with the ACT Government Solicitor (ACTGS) to ensure that its conduct in matters that progress to litigation is timely, efficient, effective and in accordance with the Model Litigant Guidelines.

It is important to note that, while the obligation to comply with the Model Litigant Guidelines is conferred on the agency, the ACTGS acts on behalf of the Health Directorate in all litigation and provides advice in accordance with the obligations applying under the Law Officers Act 2011. The ACTGS has advised that it is not aware of any breaches of the Law Officers (General) Legal Services Directions 2012 or Model Litigant Guidelines 2010 in Health Directorate matters during 2013-14.