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HFA requires laboratories to meet quality

Media release - Tuesday 19 September 2000

HFA requires laboratories to meet quality
standards as part of new national contract

The Health Funding Authority is introducing quality standards into its new contracts with the country's community medical testing laboratories.

The HFA will introduce the quality standards as part of a new nationally consistent contract for all providers of Government-funded community medical diagnostic laboratory services.

The quality standards will come into effect at the end of October.

HFA acting general manger of Personal Health, Dr Win Bennett, says the new laboratory contracts will remove the previous inconsistencies in laboratory funding contracts and funding arrangements. As part of this development, the HFA's National Screening Team is also finalising specific national quality standards for cervical cytology and histology services. The HFA, on behalf of the Government, contracts and funds privately owned community laboratories and public Health and Hospital Services (HHSs) laboratories to provide medical diagnostic tests for New Zealanders. There are 22 HHS medical laboratories in New Zealand and 12 privately-owned community laboratories.

Some $180 million a year of public money goes into funding community laboratory testing via the HFA. Community laboratories offer a range of about 170 diagnostic medical tests for people referred by their medical practitioners and midwives including tests for prostate cancer, blood and urine tests, cervical smear tests, pregnancy tests, throat and skin swab tests and so on.

Another estimated $200 million goes into funding Crown-owned public medical laboratories in hospitals for inpatients.

Dr Bennett says developing the new laboratory funding and quality arrangements has involved two-years of consultation for the HFA. "Ensuring laboratories met the required quality standards has been the major priority for the HFA. Quality issues have been the number one concern."

"We will likely be consulting with the Association of Community Laboratories as to whether they will be able to offer in-patient laboratory services for hospitals, though that's a decision Health and Hospital Services can make now themselves. For example, in Palmerston North, Tauranga, and to some degree, in Dunedin, community laboratories already provide hospitals with diagnostic services."

Ends

For more information: Ph (04) 495 4335

BACKGROUNDER TO HFA LABORATORY QUALITY STANDARDS 19 September 2000

* The Health Funding Authority will introduce quality requirements into the funding contracts it has with community medical laboratories in order to improve and enhance medical diagnostic processes, minimise potential for error, and protect consumers.

* Quality standard requirements for community laboratories being introduced into the contracts are only one part of systemic quality initiatives being introduced into the larger health system. These aim for clinical excellence among professionals, certification, credentialling, evidence-based practice, and a pragmatic system where we can minimise and learn from medical error.

* The quality standards for community laboratories are extensively documented in a 96-page national legal contract the HFA has drawn up for New Zealand's laboratories providing services to the community. The HFA has been negotiating since May with community and HHS laboratories over this contract.

* The contract covers professional standards and ensures minimum clinical standards for laboratories, organisational and service specific quality standards, including equipment and facilities. They give the HFA the right to terminate funding arrangements, rights to inspect records, and rights to audit service quality, delivery performance, information standards, and they provide reporting requirements.

* Quality and professional accreditation standards exist already but the new HFA contract requirements are part a more robust system. Ten years of change within the New Zealand health sector have meant that quality issues have not been dealt with as a major priority for previous funding authorities. The HFA is seeking to rectify this.

* The HFA's National Screening team is also finalising National Screening Quality and Policy Standards which will cover screening quality standards for the National Cervical Screening Programme. These will complement the wider Quality Standards in the HFA laboratory contracts. The HFA is expecting to release these very shortly.


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