Media Releases and Communiques
Health Ministers Agree to Reform Agenda
Health Ministers agreed to take immediate action to progress reform of the Australian health care system in the areas of after hours GP services; aged care; chronic disease and cancer services; medical workforce planning and renal disease services
23 April 2004
Health Ministers Agree to Reform Agenda
Australia's Health Ministers have today agreed on further steps in the national health reform agenda to improve safety in public hospitals, make it easier for doctors to move around the country to work in places where they are most needed, help national planning for the medical workforce and help hospitals to look after older patients better.
"It is important that we all work together to improve the Australia's health system," Health Ministers' Chair, David Llewellyn of Tasmania, said. "The reform decisions we have taken today show how much we can do on a cooperative basis."
Ministers noted a presentation from the Australian Health Care Alliance and noted that work was currently underway on key issues raised including integration of services, cost effectiveness, quality and safety, workforce sustainability, equity and affordability especially for people at risk. Ministers agreed to refer the presentation to the Health Reform Agenda Working Group for advice.
Health Ministers have decided to take a uniform set of steps across the country to improve patient safety in public hospitals. An agreed national timetable has been agreed for each action.
- To reduce problems where patients are treated on the wrong side of their body (wrong leg etc), in the next four months, all public hospitals will use the "5 step patient, right site, right procedure protocol";
- By June 2005, public hospitals will introduce new 'incident management' systems to monitor, investigate, analyse and guide their actions in dealing with patient safety and quality incidents;
- To further improve patient safety, by the end of next year, all public hospitals will have in place a patient safety risk management plan;
- Also to improve patient safety, by the end of 2005 require all public hospitals to report all sentinel events, and to contribute to a National Report on Sentinel Events;
- To reduce the harm to patients from medication errors, by June 2006, all public hospitals will be using a common medication chart. This means that the same chart will be used wherever a doctor or nurse works and wherever the patient is within a hospital;
- To also help safer use of medicines, by the end of 2006, every hospital will have in place a process of pharmaceutical review of medication prescribing, dispensing, administration and documenting processes for the use of medicines; and
- To enable patients to keep an eye out for their own safety, all public hospital patients will now receive a copy of the booklet "10 tips for safer health care: what everyone needs to know" at or before the time of admission.
Ministers agreed that there should be a single national system for medical registration rather than the current system which varies between States. This will help doctors to move around the country to areas where they are most needed. It will also provide for a greater role for medical boards in assessing and maintaining professional standards.
For the first time, a National Health Workforce Strategic Framework has been approved to provide an overarching guide to national health workforce policy and to the investment needed in health workforce over the next decade.
Further, and jointly with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), a more streamlined and efficient process will be introduced by applying the requirements of the ACCC's Determination for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to other medical specialist colleges. These reviews are an important part of ensuring an adequate number of medical specialists are available to meet community needs.
To help older people when they are in hospital, Ministers supported a set of practical "tips" to assist hospitals to understand the needs of their older patients. These will be incorporated into the hospital accreditation process.
Ministers also agreed that increasing organ donation rates is a national priority. Ministers agreed that all organ donation legislation should clearly state that the express wishes of the deceased on the Australian Organ Donor Register should be given effect. If this consent exists Ministers agreed there should not be any requirement for consent from the family at the time of donation. It was also agreed, however, that respect should be paid to situations where the family actively opposes the donation and guidelines need to be prepared to deal with this.
Ministers agreed that the decisions taken today build on previous steps and are proof of their ongoing commitment and desire to look at every opportunity to work together to improve the health system.
Ministers will be inviting a number of clinicians to meet with them in July to discuss further reform issues and are looking forward to announcing more advances at that time.
Health Ministers have also taken further steps to improve national cooperation on health information management and information and communication technology (IM&ICT). Ministers noted independent advice from the Boston Consulting Group on priority areas for national action, and endorsed the need for increased national capacity to drive forward critical national health IM&ICT priorities.
Media contact: Kay McNiece, Media Liaison AHMC 0412132585
Attachment: List of Health Reform Actions agreed by Health Ministers, 23 April 2004
Ministers agreed to a definition of transition care (its role, functions and target group), noting that this will be used by each jurisdiction to estimate the level of demand for and the desirable level of transition care services.
Ministers endorsed a set of principles and practices relating to the specific needs of older people in health services and agreed that these principles and practices should be:
- Distributed to all hospitals to guide their local practices; and
- Incorporated in the hospital accreditation process, including for accreditation as an 'aged friendly' hospital.
- That a common medication chart will be in use in all public hospitals Australia by June 2006.
- That public hospitals have in place a process of pharmaceutical review of medication prescribing, dispensing, administration and documenting processes for the use of medicines by December 2006.
- That all public hospitals have an incident management system in place by January 2005 incorporating incident management, monitoring, investigation, analysis and action arising.
- To require all public hospitals to report all sentinel events, either to the state department or to an agreed third party, no later than the end of 2005.
- That all states and territories will contribute to a national report on sentinel events to be produced by the end of 2005.
- That all public hospitals will adopt the 5 step right patient, right site, right procedure protocol for verifying the site of surgery and other procedures to reduce the risk of wrong site procedures by the end of September 2004.
- That by the end of December 2004, all public hospitals will provide each hospital patient with a copy of the consumer booklet 10 tips for safer health care: what everyone needs to know at or before the time of admission.
- That all public hospitals will have in place a patient safety risk management plan by the end of 2005.
Attachment: National consistency in organ donation
Ministers agreed that increasing organ donation rates is a national priority and that the key to maximizing organ donation rates rests in communication, education and administrative arrangements and in a nationally consistent approach.
Ministers also agreed that all Organ Donation legislation should clearly state that the expressed wishes of the deceased should be given effect and, if that is the case, there not be any requirement for express consent from the family at the time of donation.
Ministers agreed that respect should be paid where the family actively opposes a donation recorded on the Register and guidelines need to be prepared to deal with this situation.
Ministers requested AHMAC to establish a time-limited Working Group, including Australians Donate and New Zealand as an observer, to advise on the implementation of these decisions. This would include examining whether it should be compulsory for medical authorities to look at the AODR to ascertain the wishes of a deceased. The Working Group is to report progress to AHMC in July.
Ministers supported the intention of the Australian Government Minister for Health and Ageing to review the Australian Organ Donation Register and ensure that it is up to date, particularly in relation to consent.