Making a complaint about your residential care

Simon Wallace, New Zealand Aged Care Association CEO and the Ministry of Health have developed new resources to assist in navigating the residential care complaints process.

Here are the steps that the Ministry of Health suggests using if you have any concerns or would like to make a complaint about the residential care you or someone you know is receiving:

1. Discuss your concerns with the residential care provider

Talk to the manager. This is the first line for response to a complaint. Residential care homes have the ability to manage any immediate issues or actions required. They can answer questions at the point of care. They can check and answer questions and concerns about a resident’s admission agreement or private contract to see what services the person agreed to pay for; and address care concerns and complaints.

Support from a Health and Disability Advocate

If you would like the support of an advocate, the Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Service (Advocacy Service) offers free advocacy support to anyone receiving residential care. An advocate can help you identify what the issues are that need to be addressed, and what resolution looks like. They then provide support to help you take your concerns to the care provider.

The Advocacy Service has a network of advocates who work in community offices around NZ and regularly visit residential care homes to meet with residents and their families. Advocates also spend time talking to residential care staff about the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, including consumers’ right to complain.

A health and disability advocate would be happy to talk through your complaint options with you, and can be contacted on 0800 555 050 or via the Advocacy Service website.

2. Contact your local  DHB Portfolio Manager

If you feel that talking directly with the residential care home hasn’t resolved the issue, you contact your local health of older persons  DHB Portfolio Manager. They can assist with the management of the complaint. The Portfolio Manager may work with specialist nurses/clinicians, speak to and / or visit the rest home to gather information and, and will contact you with their findings. Please note: gathering information may take time.

Click here to get the list of DHB portfolio managers

3. Contact the Ministry of Health

If you feel that you have concerns that haven’t been addressed, contact HealthCERT or Disability Support Services at the Ministry of Health. They can assist with the management of the complaint and information on process. Part of their process would be to speak to the DHB and/or care service to investigate. HealthCERT can also carry out spot inspections.  Note: This isn’t an immediate response to your care questions and gathering information may take time.

You can contact HealthCERT by emailing, or phoning 0800 113 813.

Disability Support services can be contacted by emailing, or by phoning 0800 373 664

4. The Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC)

The Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) considers complaints about health and disability services, including rest homes and other aged care services. After receiving a complaint, HDC gathers information from the care service, the local DHB, HealthCERT and other agencies as needed. HDC may decide to close the complaint with educative comments or recommendations (often after receiving advice from clinical experts); refer the complaint to the DHB or to the Advocacy Service for resolution between the parties; or, in some serious cases, HDC may carry out a formal investigation. A formal investigation can be a lengthy process (over a year) and may not provide immediate answers to questions about the care provided.

For complaints about services, you can contact a Nationwide Health and Disability Advocate on 0800 555 050 to discuss your complaint and the best way to resolve it, or go to the Advocacy Service website:

You can contact HDC directly via the website,, or by phone, 0800 11 22 33.

Complaints about costs

For complaints about costs you can talk to your residential care provider, the DHB, seek legal advice or go to the Disputes Tribunal (formerly known as Small Claims Tribunal).

Advice is available at How to take a claim to the Disputes Tribunal on the HowToLaw website.

Click here to access the new resources about the complaints process

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.