Your rights in the hospital setting

While some carers and families have positive experiences with hospitals, others don't. Whatever your experience, it's very important to know your rights.

Know your rights and where to get support

While some carers and families have positive experiences with hospitals, others describe this as being one of the most frustrating, intimidating and powerless experiences they have ever encountered.

It's very important to know your rights. There is a Patient Charter of Rights for public and private patients respectively, which outlines patient rights and responsibilities.

If you feel these rights have been disregarded, or you experience ultimatums when you do not agree with what hospital staff feel is the best thing for the patient, contact either the:

  • social work/welfare department; or
  • patient representative.

Generally the social worker is your initial contact point and can speak up on your behalf, whilst obtaining more information for you about the situation.

Patient representatives respond to unresolved issues or complaints. A patient representative can act as a mediator between the hospital and the family - they can speak up on behalf of families when appropriate. However, don't forget that they are an employee of the hospital.

Alternatively you may contact an external organisation like Office of the Public Advocate (OPA). OPA provides an advice line which allows you to speak confidentially with an advocate - phone 1300 309 337. As a last resort you may choose to seek legal advice.

Hospitals are not yet as carer-friendly as we would like them to be. However don't be afraid to be seen and heard as progress is made each time a carer gives feedback. The following messages are from carers who have spoken up:

  • Don't be afraid of the system
  • Be confident and work in partnership with staff
  • You know your family member best.

For further information, read our fact sheets titled, The hospital ward - how it works day-to-day; Medical staff in hospitals; Allied health staff in hospitals; Nursing and other staff in hospitals; Aged care assessment in hospital - what you need to know; Discharge from hospital - the options.