New standards for primary, community health care

Tuesday, 12 October, 2021

New standards for primary, community health care

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has launched the National Safety and Quality Primary and Community Healthcare Standards with an aim to protect Australians from harm and improve the quality of health care that people receive in these settings.

The new standards, launched by Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt, provide a framework that can be applied to a broad range of healthcare services such as dental practices, allied health services (optometry, audiology, podiatry and physiotherapy), Chinese medicine clinics, community health services and skin clinics, to name a few.

Commission Chief Medical Officer, Conjoint Professor Anne Duggan said the standards will provide practitioners the tools to be even better.

“In time, Australians will have confidence that when they visit a primary or community healthcare service accredited to the standards, they are receiving safe and high-quality health care — no matter the type of health service they are using or where they access it.

“Each year, most Australians will visit a primary or community healthcare service in their local area. It is vital that these patients can trust the quality of care they receive and know they will be safe from harm.”

The Primary and Community Healthcare Standards comprise three key standards: Clinical Governance Standard, Partnering with Consumers Standard and Clinical Safety Standard — each with different elements to be implemented by healthcare services.

“The new standards describe elements shared by all safe, high-quality healthcare services. That is, they should be well managed, ensure that people who use their service will be safe from harm and enable patients to be partners in their own health care and to know their opinion is valued by the healthcare professionals,” Professor Duggan explained.

“Australia has had nationally consistent standards in hospitals and day procedure services for 10 years. Since then, the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards have led to significant improvements in patient safety. In time, we expect these new standards to lead to improvements in health care provided by primary and community services,” she said.

The new standards have the support of the Australian Government Chief Allied Health Officer, Dr Anne-marie Boxall, who has encouraged the sector to find out how to apply the framework to their services. “The National Safety and Quality Primary and Community Healthcare Standards are significant for the sector and will benefit all Australians when they access health care in their local community,” she said.

“It is important that people feel safe when they access a healthcare service, that the care patients receive is tailored to their needs and that they are supported to make informed decisions about their own care.

“Now is the time for healthcare services to become familiar with the new standards, ahead of voluntary independent accreditation being introduced next year. Healthcare providers may identify areas that need some attention, while many will find that they are already addressing elements described in the standards.

“By implementing these standards, healthcare services will be well positioned to demonstrate to their patients that they are providing safe, high-quality care.”

All Australian primary and community healthcare services directly involved in patient care will be encouraged to implement the Primary and Community Healthcare Standards.

The Commission is developing comprehensive resources to support healthcare services to implement the new standards and to help consumers understand what the standards will mean for them.

From mid-2022, healthcare services will be able to be independently assessed and become accredited to the new standards. Over time, Australians will be able to ask their healthcare service if they are accredited and look for an accreditation certificate or badge at the healthcare service or on their website.

The Primary and Community Healthcare Standards were developed following consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Australian Government, state and territory partners, primary and community healthcare services, consumers, peak bodies and interest groups.

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