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AUS: New NationalCouncil To Oversee Health Safety

Media Release

Australian Health Ministers Conference - Canberra

4 August 1999

New National Council Will Oversee Safety And Quality In Australia's Health Care System

Health Ministers meeting in Canberra have agreed to establish a new Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care, to improve Australia's health care system.

The establishment of the Council was a major recommendation in a final report prepared by the National Expert Advisory Group on Safety and Quality in Australian Health Care (NEAG) presented to Health Ministers today.

The Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Dr Michael Wooldridge, said the report was a significant step in achieving an ongoing joint commitment to work in areas of national importance.

"There is currently a large range of quality improvement activities taking place around Australia. The problem is that these are not well coordinated and results of good studies and projects are seldom transferred across health services or States and Territories for the benefit of others," Dr Wooldridge said.

"If all governments, health providers and community representatives can work together on these issues we can avoid duplicating efforts and make better use of the expertise in some areas.

"The new Council will set the agenda for health care safety and quality in Australia and provide national leadership to reduce the risk of adverse events occurring in the health system in all settings. It will initiate research and identify strategies to improve health services."

The National Council is being established with initial core funding of $5 million over five years. The first task of the Council will be to provide urgent advice to Health Ministers on priority projects for consideration for additional funding.

ACT Health Minister, Michael Moore who is hosting the conference, said Ministers had agreed that the new Council would be a national partnership between governments, health care providers and consumers.

"We will be able to learn from incidents and adverse events, support stronger community involvement in health care planning and delivery and also provide better national accountability," he said.

"Such a Council will lead to considerable improvements in continuity of care for patients, it will help reduce the risk of adverse events occurring and reduce the enormous costs of managing mistakes."

The 10 actions highlighted in the report cover matters such as:

improving information flow;

strengthening consumer involvement in health care;

learning from incidents and adverse events;

improving legislative arrangements to allow for thorough investigation of incidents and near misses;

improvements to formal quality improvement and accreditation mechanisms; and,

increasing the focus of quality and safety in education and training.

NEAG Chair, Professor Robert Porter, said the decision was far-reaching.

"NEAG emphasises that these national actions will contribute significantly to improving the health care system as a whole, for the benefit of patients and the community.

"The Council will ensure that these national actions are undertaken throughout health care organisations, public and private, and in the community as well as in hospitals.

"It will also strengthen links between existing quality enhancement projects; disseminate information about initiatives which have been successful in reducing risk; improve accountability and focus increasing attention on improving safety and quality throughout the whole of our health system.

"There are enormous opportunities to work together as a nation to improve areas that affect patient outcomes the most - by reducing risk at the boundaries in the health system.

"Numerous studies have shown that things can go wrong between GPs and hospitals; within different areas of a hospital, and between hospitals and the community or nursing homes. It is at these boundaries that information flows, responsibility for patient care and communication can be compromised, leading to inadequate continuity or breakdowns in patient care management."

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