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How To Improve The Quality Of NZ's Health Services

Friday 3 May 2002

How To Improve The Quality Of New Zealand's Health Care Services

"In order for health care services to achieve the best health outcomes, quality improvement should be the prime focus of health care delivery in this country." This advice is contained in a National Health Committee (NHC) report Safe Systems Supporting Safe Care released by Health Minister Annette King today.

"Rather than just being the task of those with 'quality' in their job titles, quality improvement should be the shared responsibility of all individuals and teams in the health sector, as well as organisations and government. Improvement should be an integral, 'everyday' part of the health care process," the report says.

The NHC's report comments that people using health care services expect them to be safe. Yet a recent study of adverse events in New Zealand hospitals indicates that treatment is not always safe. The study found that adverse events were associated with 13 percent of hospital admissions, of which about one third were considered highly preventable.

The NHC considers that improving the quality of health care be approached through attention to five components: safety, consumer-focus, access, effectiveness and efficiency. It sees these components as closely interrelated and, therefore, to be viewed together rather than in isolation.

In calling for quality improvement to the be prime focus of health care delivery, the NHC also calls for the explicit identification of the trade-offs - relevant to the five components of quality - that emerge from such a focus. For instance, a trade-off between safety and access arises when considering the extent to which services are centralised.

"Responding to the experiences of people who receive health care (and their families) is crucial to improving quality. Consumers and carers have direct experiences, both positive and negative, of health care processes and know firsthand the problems that can arise and often how things could be done better," the NHC's report says.

As well as greater consumer involvement, the NHC recommends stronger leadership, improved responsiveness to Mâori and better co-ordination (to share successful initiatives across the system) as avenues for improving health care quality.

The Committee's advice on how to improve the quality of health care in New Zealand contained in Safe Systems Supporting Safe Care will form the basis of the Minister of Health's Quality Improvement Strategy being developed by the Ministry of Health for the health sector. The report is available on the NHC's website:


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