Patient safety in primary health care (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care ) : Call for comment

In Australia the most common exposure of people to the health care system occurs at the primary health care level. Almost one in five people visit a general practitioner and one in ten visit an allied health professional in any given two week period.

Primary health care is a diverse field involving many different types of health professionals such as doctors, nurses, allied health workers, dentists, pharmacists, and pathology and imaging professionals. Primary health care encompasses services provided by public and private health care organisations, and may be delivered through a range of different access points such as a practice, clinic, at home, in the community or at schools.

A broad range of professional quality improvement activities are undertaken in primary health care. However, there is limited evidence regarding patient safety and the effectiveness of patient safety solutions in primary health care. Much of the Australian research that exists focuses on incidents and errors in general practice or medicine safety risks in the community. Little is known of patient risks within the wider primary health care sector.

There is general agreement among stakeholders that given the size of the sector, the breadth of services provided, the frequency with which people access these services and the important role that primary health care plays in influencing the health of the population it is important that the care provided through primary health care is safe and that risks of unnecessary harm are minimised.

This program seeks to clarify our understanding of the patient safety issues in primary health care including the research, tools and activities that are currently used to address patient safety issues, and identifying gaps and opportunities to support organisations in strengthening their capacity for implementing effective patient safety solutions in the primary health care sector.

Patient Safety in Primary Health Care Discussion Paper and Consultation

As a first step in this program of work the Commission is seeking to clarify its understanding of patient safety issues in primary health care in Australia, including identifying key priorities and solutions both nationally and internationally that could be applied to the Australian primary health care context.

A draft discussion paper on Patient Safety in Primary Health Care has been developed for public consultation. It is open for comment until 15 October, 2010. This paper seeks to broadly map potential patient safety issues, the type of work that is currently being undertaken both nationally and internationally to mitigate patient safety risks, the national primary health care policy environment and identification of key stakeholder groups.

The findings of this consultation process will be used to inform the Commission's consideration of activities it could undertake or support to strengthen patient safety in primary health care in Australia.

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