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Patient rights

Contributed by Robin Gibson and current at 16 December 2021.

As a patient of a health practitioner, you have rights which must be observed when you have any contact with the health care system, whether a medical practitioner in private practice or in a hospital or other similar organisation. This section will outline the most important patient rights and how you should be treated as a pateient or family member of a patient. These rights apply to all people in all places where health care is provided in Australia. The Charter described what you, or someone you care for, can expect when receiving health care.

The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights

The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights was prepared by the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care. This organisation is an independent Commonwealth corporation which is funded by the Commonwealth together with State and Territory governments. The Commission was established originally in 2006 to “lead and coordinate national improvements in safety and quality in health care”. It deals with many issues and has produced reports into such matters as safety of medicines, prevention of patient falls and how health practitioners must deal with patients who are injured while in the health care system.

The Charter applies Australia-wide. It lists seven charter rights:
  • Access - a right to health care
  • Safety - a right to safe and high quality care
  • Respect - a right to be shown respect, dignity and consideration
  • Communication - a right to be informed about services, treatment, options and costs in a clear and open way
  • Participation - a right to be included in decisions and choices about care
  • Privacy - a right to privacy and confidentiality of information
  • Comment - a right to comment on care and having concerns addressed
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care published a guide for patients, consumers, carers and families about the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights.]

The original Charter was updated and the second edition was launched in July 2019. The second addition fleshes out the rights outlined in the first edition, making clear the additional scope of each right. The provisions of the Second Edition of the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights follow.

I have a right to:

  • Healthcare services and treatment that meets my needs
  • Receive safe and high quality health care that meets national standards
  • Be cared for in an environment that is safe and makes me feel safe
  • Be treated as an individual, and with dignity and respect
    Have my culture, identity, beliefs and choices recognised and respected
  • Ask questions and be involved in open and honest communication
  • Make decisions with my healthcare provider, to the extent that I choose and am able to
  • Include the people that I want in planning and decision-making
  • Clear information about my condition, the possible benefits and risks of different tests and treatments, so I can give my informed consent
  • Receive information about services, waiting times and costs
  • Be given assistance, when I need it, to help me understand and use health information
  • Access my health information
  • Be told if something has gone wrong during my health care, how it happened, how it may affect me and what is being done to make care safe
  • Have my personal privacy respected
  • Have information about me and my health kept secure and confidential
Give feedback
  • Provide feedback or make a complaint without it affecting the way that I am treated
  • Have my concerns addressed in a transparent and timely way
  • Share my experience and participate to improve the quality of care and health services
The Second Edition of the Australian Charter of Healthcare rights can be accessed at .

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