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New quality guidance, released yesterday by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, will improve the standard of primary and community health services nation-wide, the Commission’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) said.

The National Safety and Quality Primary and Community Healthcare Standards have been developed to meet the needs of health services ranging from allied health through to more specific services such as dentistry and skin care, and introduce new standards in three key areas for healthcare workers to follow.

Those areas – covering clinical governance, “partnering with consumers”, and clinical safety – form the basis of new rules, which will be a “game changer” for those working in the relevant areas, the Commission’s CMO, Conjoint Professor Anne Duggan said.

“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 healthcare – no matter the type of health service they are using or where they access it,” Professor Duggan said.

“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 CMO also added that clinical standards for Australian healthcare have had a strong recent history.

“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 healthcare provided by primary and community services.”

The new rules were also welcomed by the federal government’s Chief Allied Health Officer, Dr Anne-Marie Boxall, who said that workplaces needed to make sure they were aware of the new guidelines.

“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,” Dr Boxall said.

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

Developed in consultation with government and representative stakeholders, those in the affected sectors will be able to be assessed and accredited independently from mid-2022, with health consumers to be eventually able to verify accreditation at a later date.

The Commission plans to release resources to assist healthcare providers and consumers with the forthcoming changes, with more information on the new rules currently available at its website.