The response of doctors to a formal complaint

Louise Nash*, Bradley Curtis, Merrilyn Walton, Simon Willcock, Christopher Tennant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: This pilot study investigates the psychological impact on doctors of a complaint to the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission and the doctor's perception of legal risk. Method: Doctors w ho received a complaint were sent a set of questionnaires embracing psychological variables and their perceptions of legal risk. Results: The response rate was 60%. Thirty-eight percent of respondents met screening criteria for psychiatric disorder. There was, however, minimal functional impairment of work, social or family life. Respondents scored highly on altruism, but at the same time were 'tough minded'. The questionnaire to assess the doctor's perception of legal risk appeared to have acceptable construct validity but showed that doctors still misunderstand medico-legal risk. Conclusions: Psychiatric morbidity rates of our sample were comparable with other Australian medical samples. This small sample appeared to cope with the stress of a complaint better than those reported in other studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-250
Number of pages5
JournalAustralasian Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Complaints
  • Doctors
  • NSW Health Care Complaints Commission
  • Perception of legal risk
  • Psychological impact


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