The most common complaints


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A new analysis has looked at the most common complaints against five different health professions: including pharmacists

An author team, led by Professor Merrilyn Walton from the University of Sydney, looked at more than 12,600 complaints made over an 18-month period across pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, nursing/midwifery and psychology.

The analysis included AHPRA, HPCA and HCCC complaints data.

There were 545,300 practitioners registered at the time, including 28,370 pharmacists.

“During the study period there were 12,616 complaints, corresponding to an annual rate of 1.5 per 100 practitioners,” the authors wrote in Australian Health Review.

“Complaints were most common for doctors and dentists (5% per annum per practitioner) and least common for nurses/midwives (0.5% per annum per practitioner). Sex (P < 0.01), age (P < 0.01) and country of birth (P < 0.01) were all associated with risk of complaint.

“The most common complaints were clinical care (44% of all complaints), medication (10%) and health impairment of the practitioner (8%). Types of complaints varied by profession, sex and age.”

Clinical care was the most common area of complaint for medicine (making up 50% of complaints), dentistry (71%), nursing/midwifery (27%) and psychology (19%). Complaints about clinical care were mostly about inadequate or inappropriate treatment or procedures.

For pharmacy, medications were the most common area of complaint (61%), and included inappropriate, unlawful or inaccurate dispensing, and inappropriate supply.

Medications were the second most prevalent complaint overall, and in third place overall was health impairment – particularly common in nurses and midwives.

The next most common complaints against pharmacists involved offences (7.5%); health impairment (6.4%); communication (5.1%); clinical care (3.7%); national law offences (3.2%); “other” (2.4%) and confidentiality (2.2%).

Overall, “The 10 most common complaints make up 90% of all complaints, with the sixth to tenth most common complaints being behaviour (n = 515), boundary crossing (n = 467), offence (n = 337), billing (n = 294) and confidentiality (n = 277) respectively,” the authors wrote.

“For all professions, except pharmacy, the most common complaint category was clinical care, accounting for 71% of all complaints against dentists, 50% of all complaints in medicine and 26% of all complaints against nurses/midwives.”

Behaviour and boundary crossing made up only 1.8% and 0.8% of complaints against pharmacists respectively.

Dentistry and medicine had the highest rate of complaints, with an annual rate of about five per 100 practitioners; more than half of all complaints (7,291) concerned a medical practitioner.

The analysis noted that pharmacy had a “much younger” cohort than the other groups, with 13,535 pharmacists (48% of all pharmacists) being aged under 35; pharmacists also comprised 60% women, or 17,033 individuals. More than half of pharmacists (57%) were born in Australia or New Zealand.

Across all professions, men were more than twice (120% as likely to be the subject of a complaint than women; the risk of a complaint was also lower for younger health professionals than older ones.

For pharmacy specifically, “Males were over 150% more likely be the subject of complaint, but there was no association with age (P = 0.13). Being born in Africa increased the risk by 71%,” the authors note.

The authors concluded that the overall risk of a complaint was low, and that identifying the most common complaints could help practitioners understand their risk of a complaint, and ways to reduce the likelihood.

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