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Amendments to quality and safety reviews for health service entities

Michael Gorton AM, Felicity Iredale & Alex Chan

The Health Legislation Amendment (Quality and Safety) Bill (Vic) (Bill) was introduced on 30 November 2021 to amend the Health Services Act 1988 (Vic) (Act), ensuring that Victorians have confidence in the safety and quality of its health care system. The reforms are aiming to achieve a balance between transparency and accountability in the system whilst also protecting and preventing harm through in depth reviews.

The Bill will make the following amendments:

  • to provide for the appointment of the Chief Quality and Safety Officer;
  • to provide for quality and safety reviews of health service entities and to introduce protections (including from litigation) for serious adverse patient safety event reviews conducted by health service entities;
  • to create a new statutory duty of candour for health service entities;
  • to extend protections for apologies offered by health service entities for harm suffered by patients; and
  • to amend the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) to confer additional functions on the Victorian Perioperative Consultative Council.

These amendments support the last of the key legislative reforms recommended by Targeting Zero, the report of the Review of Hospital Safety and Quality Assurance, which found that the events that prompted reviews occurred as a result of catastrophic failures in clinical governance throughout all organisational levels. As these failures were systematic, Targeting Zero recommended that safety and quality be elevated across the hospital systems.

In achieving elevated safety and quality a more active approach will be taken by the Chief Quality and Safety officer who will have the primary role of inspecting and auditing health service entities to ensure a reasonable standard of quality and safety is provided. Quality and safety reviews can be conducted by or on behalf of The Chief Quality and Safety Officer, with protections from litigation and confidentiality protections.

In addition to the above, Targeting Zero made recommendations on a statutory duty of candour which will apply to incidents of a high severity. The proposed statutory duty of candour aims to have open and honest communication with consumers and their families following high level incidents in order to improve the patient experience and to improve the quality of health care and safety. Under the duty, health service entities will be obliged to apologise to any person seriously harmed while receiving care, explain what went wrong and describe what actions will be taken and what improvements will be put in place.

The Victorian Health Minister acknowledged that the statutory duty of candor was based on recommendations from an Expert Advisory Group appointed in 2018. Russell Kennedy Principal, Michael Gorton AM, chaired the EAG which developed these recommendations.

The Minister noted that:

Openness, honesty and Transparency build trust between patients and health practitioners and improves quality and safety outcomes. It also leads to more learning, and improvements that build a stronger and more accountable health system in Victoria”

Which health service entities are impacted?
  • public health services;
  • public hospitals;
  • multi-purpose services;
  • denominational hospitals;
  • private hospitals;
  • day procedure services;
  • ambulance services;
  • non-emergency patient transport services;
  • the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health; and
  • other entities set out in regulations that provide health services.

The Bill will commence on 30 November 2022.

To read the Bill, click here.

How we can help?

For further information on the Bill and what it will mean for your organisation, please contact Michael Gorton AM or another member of our expert Health Law team.

If you would like to stay up to date with alerts, news and insights, you can subscribe to our mailing list here.

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