Mental Health Complaints Commissioner

The MHCC’s annual report 2015-16 shows service improvements in response to people making a complaint

14 October 2016

Our annual report shows that a total of 126 service improvement actions were taken by Victorian public mental health services as outcomes of the complaints process.

Commissioner Lynne Coulson Barr said that in the MHCC’s second year of operation, the team has seen a steady rise in the number of people speaking up about their experiences of public mental health services.

‘We have been pleased to see that with this rise in people speaking up, there has also been an increase in the number of reported service improvement actions taken to address identified issues in relation to policy, quality and safety,’ Commissioner Coulson Barr said.

‘These outcomes reflect our commitment to safeguarding and promoting the rights of consumers, families and carers under the Mental Health Act 2014 (the Act),’ Commissioner Coulson Barr said.

In 2015-16, we received 6,811 calls and responded to 1,729 new enquiries and complaints, which is a 19 per cent increase on 2014-15.

‘This level of engagement, particularly by consumers, demonstrates the need for an independent, specialist complaints body that deals with concerns about public mental health services,’ Commissioner Coulson Barr said.

In responding to complaints, we promote early resolution between the person and the service wherever possible, supporting them in working together to gain a mutual understanding and reach agreement on how the issues can be addressed and resolved.

Of the complaints received by our office, 41 per cent related to treatment, including the extent to which the consumer’s preferences were taken into account.

A total of 24 per cent related to communication, including the degree to which services were communicating with consumers, families and carers about their assessment, treatment and recovery.

Fifteen per cent related to staff conduct and behaviour, including the extent to which staff showed empathy towards consumers, families and carers and respected their rights.

These common themes indicate the need for services to focus on ways in which the principles of the Act, particularly supported decision making and recovery-oriented practice, can be embedded into all aspects of treatment and care.

‘Our analysis of data from complaints reporting by services indicates that we are receiving a similar number of enquiries and complaints to the number of complaints made directly to services,’ Commissioner Coulson Barr said.

‘Our goal is to see a much higher proportion of complaints raised directly with services as a result of people being able and confident to do so, and for complaints to be recognised as an important way of improving people's experiences of mental health services,’ Commissioner Coulson Barr said.

For more information, download the full report at To request a hard copy, contact the MHCC’s Senior Communications Officer, Anna Ringelstein, on T/ 1800 246 054 or at E/