Learn about Our Complaints Process

If you have a concern about the care or treatment you received from your doctor, we can help

Your relationship with your doctor may be one of the most important in your life, but that relationship can become strained when you have concerns about your doctor’s ability or behaviour. If you’ve had a worrisome encounter with an Ontario doctor, we are here to help.

One of our most important responsibilities is to respond to concerns and investigate complaints about doctors.

If you are concerned or have questions about the treatment you've received or want a copy of your records, please speak with your doctor or, if applicable, the patient advocate at your hospital, before contacting the CPSO. This is often the most direct way to get the answers you need.

If this is not possible or successful, please contact our public advisors at 416-967-2603 or 1-800-268-7096 ext. 603 or by email at [email protected]. Our public advisors may be able to answer your questions or help you clarify what questions to ask your doctor.

How do I make a complaint?

If you’re filing a complaint on your own behalf, you should complete and submit a complaint form.  If you are filing a complaint on behalf of someone else, you must submit both the complaint form and an authorization for representation form.

Keep in mind that your complaint needs to:

  • be in a permanent form (paper, electronic, or recorded)
  • name a doctor or have enough information to allow us to help identify them
  • expresses a concern about  the doctor’s care or conduct, with enough detail for the doctor to be able to respond to your complaint, and
  • indicate that you are willing to go through the complaint process and have us provide your complaint to the doctor

Once we receive your complaint, we will aim to contact you within two business days to discuss your complaint, obtain any missing information, answer your questions, explain the process, and ask you what you would like to see happen as a result of your complaint.

We may be able to resolve many complaints at this point. If both you and the doctor agree to this route, a CPSO staff member will help you come to an agreement to the satisfaction of both parties. We call this Alternative Dispute Resolution.

What if I’ve been sexually abused by an Ontario doctor?

We have a separate section for sexual abuse complaints. In it, you will find:

  • Answers to questions you may have if you think your doctor violated a boundary or engaged in sexual misconduct or abuse
  • A brochure that can help you decide whether you wish to file a formal sexual abuse complaint against your doctor
  • A list of community resources in Ontario for victims of sexual abuse.

What happens with my complaint?

We notify the doctor of the complaint, and an investigator will gather information about the issues you raised. They will try to answer questions, address concerns, and attempt to clear up any misunderstandings between you and the doctor throughout the process.

The investigator will obtain relevant information, including medical records (from the doctor or other health care providers or facilities) and other documents.

The investigator may need to get written consent, either from you or from the patient (or their legal representative) if you are not the patient, to obtain certain records. You can find more information about consent on the complaint form.

The investigator may interview witnesses, including family members, pharmacists, nurses, other doctors involved in the care, and hospital administrators.

Requesting a response from the doctor

The investigator will ask the doctor to respond to your complaint. This is an opportunity for the doctor to explain their care or conduct.

Information review

When the investigator has collected all the necessary information, they submit the documents to our Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICR).

The Committee may ask for additional information, including an expert opinion, or it will make a decision about your complaint. You and the doctor will receive a copy of the Committee’s decision and its reasons. The ICR Committee will consider the seriousness of the issues your complaint raises and take into account any previous decisions the CPSO has made involving the doctor.

Possible outcomes

The CPSO can decide to:

  • take no further action, if the doctor’s conduct/care meets reasonable and acceptable standards of practice, or if the information we gathered during our investigation does not support the complaint
  • issue “advice” to the doctor, if we believe the doctor would benefit from some guidance in improving their practice or conduct
  • request that the doctor participate in remedial self-study (education)
  • come to an agreement with the doctor, called an “undertaking,” that they will improve or restrict their practice. This may include education, supervision, or evaluation, or the doctor may agree to resign and never apply for reinstatement
  • order the doctor to complete a specified remediation program to improve skills or change practice. The CPSO monitors the doctor to ensure they completes this program
  • issue a formal “caution” to the doctor regarding specific aspects of their practice or conduct  
  • refer the doctor to another committee for incapacity proceedings if we have concerns about the doctor's health that may be affecting their ability to practise
  • refer the concerns about the doctor to our Discipline Committee

How long does it take to complete the complaints process?

Our goal is to conclude your complaint within three to 10 months. You will receive the Committee’s decision in the mail two to three months later.

Is there a time limit to filing a complaint?

No, there is no time limit. But we do recommend that you tell us what happened as soon as possible after the event. By doing so, it becomes more likely that:

  • relevant documents will still exist
  • we’ll have a better chance of locating witnesses
  • memories have not faded
  • evidence is not missing

Can the information which the CPSO gathers be used in court?

No. According to Section 36(3) of the Regulated Health Professions Act, CPSO reports and decisions are not admissible in a civil proceeding.

Are there limitations to what the Committee can do?

  • The Committee cannot make a doctor change his or her opinion or report.
  • The Committee cannot provide diagnoses, referrals, or treatment recommendations or direct a patient's care.
  • The Committee cannot make a doctor apologize (although once a matter is brought to their attention, some doctors do).
  • The Committee cannot deal with complaints about hospitals or health-care providers who are not doctors (such as nurses, chiropractors, pharmacists, etc.).
  • The Committee does not have the authority to award financial compensation.

What if I disagree with the CPSO’s decision?

You or the doctor can appeal almost all CPSO complaint decisions to an independent government body, called the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB). HPARB will review whether our investigation was adequate, and whether the ICR Committee’s decision was reasonable.

The only decisions that you or the doctor cannot appeal are those where we refer to our Discipline Committee, or we refer the doctor to a different committee with concerns about their health.

If either you or the doctor appeals our decision, HPARB requires us to disclose the information we collected during our investigation, including personal health information. HPARB’s reviews are public.

Communications Code of Conduct

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is committed to communicating with you in a respectful, professional and civil manner. Similarly, we expect the same courtesy from you.

We understand that the circumstances or issues that you are communicating with the CPSO about may be stressful. However, we will not accept abusive behaviour or communications towards our staff. This would include threats, vexatious or harassing comments or conduct, sexual harassment, intimidation, yelling or screaming, or obscene, racist or discriminatory statements.

The law requires the CPSO to protect staff from abusive behaviour, and we will not tolerate such behaviour against our staff. Repeated behaviour of this kind may result in the CPSO communicating with you only in writing or otherwise restricting future communications with you.