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Initiatives to boost patient safety

22 December 2008

Initiatives to boost patient safety

The national Quality Improvement Committee (QIC), an independent advisory committee, has recently launched five programmes aimed at boosting patient safety in a number of areas.

In its first annual report to the Minister of Health, the QIC said the projects focus on areas that will provide the most benefit to improving quality care to consumers. Funding of $19 million has been allocated to these projects.

“These projects represent the most significant effort in New Zealand to date to improve patient safety,” QIC Chair Patrick Snedden said.

“We hope these initiatives provide an impetus for district health boards (DHBs) to invest in other areas of quality improvement over the coming years.”

Mr Snedden said the initiatives are being implemented in partnership with DHBs, with one DHB appointed to lead funding and implementation for each of the programmes.

One of the five projects seeks to improve the management of patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma or depression, as they move through the health system by looking at their experience from the time they present at the hospital to their discharge.

Another project aims to put in place a nationally coordinated incident management system. This system will be a mechanism to report and manage adverse or serious events and assist with learning to prevent them happening again and to guide the immediate response to these incidents, Mr Snedden explained.

“Reporting these incidents will help us spot the risks and problem areas and identify solutions. We must learn from these incidents so we can make systems safer and more reliable,”he said.

Reducing the rate of hospital-acquired infections is the goal of another national programme. International studies have proven actions that can reduce these rates considerably. A study has shown that around 10 per cent of patients admitted to New Zealand hospitals acquire one or more infections.

The most far-reaching programme is the one aimed at improving medication safety. Medication is the most frequent clinical intervention and medication errors are common. This programme encompasses all the steps in the medicines chain including the charting and dispensing of a drug, the checking and giving of a medicine to a patient and seeing if the drug has the correct effect.

Another initiative is to establish an adult mortality review committee that will look at all deaths of surgical patients and determine if there were any actions that health services could do to prevent these deaths.

Questions and Answers

What is the Quality Improvement Committee?

The Quality Improvement Committee, formerly EpiQual, was set up in February 2007 to provide independent advice to the Minister of Health and recommend measures to improve quality within the New Zealand health sector.

Who makes up the Quality Improvement Committee?

The QIC’s current chair is Patrick Snedden. The members are: Alan Merry, Barbara Crawford, Barbara Greer, Nick Baker, Catherine Rae, Cynthia Farquhar, Jean Hera, Jim Vause, Judi Strid and Mary Seddon.

What are QIC’s key tasks?

QIC works across the health and disability sector as both an advisor and a facilitator.

Among its key tasks are to:

provide independent advice to the Minister of Health on quality improvement
develop whole system frameworks and integrative approaches to quality improvement
identify examples of innovation or best practice (globally and nationally) that can be adapted for implementation in New Zealand
recommend data sets to better inform and monitor quality improvement
collaborate with the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner in promoting the Code of Health and Disability Service Consumers’ Rights as a basis for continuous improvement


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