Hospital safety and quality

The safety and quality of the care provided in Australia’s hospitals is important to patients and their families, and is a key focus for governments, service providers and health professionals. This section explores the measures used to report on the safety and quality of hospital care.

Explore more information about hospital safety and quality via the links at the bottom of the page.

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How is safety and quality of care measured?

Using the National Hospital Morbidity Database, the quality of admitted patient care can be measured in various ways, including the rates of:

  • Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream (SAB) infections
  • Potentially preventable hospitalisations (PPHs)
  • Unplanned readmissions
  • Hospital-acquired complications and adverse events
  • Correct hand hygiene ‘moments’ (opportunities).

Patient experience surveys can also provide an indication of the quality of care provided to admitted patients.

However, the available information provides only part of the complete picture of hospital safety and quality. There is no routinely available information on some aspects of quality, such as continuity of care or responsiveness of hospital services.

Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia infections

In 2017–18:

  • all states and territories had public hospital SAB rates below the national benchmark of 2.0 cases per 10,000 patient days (national rate was (0.73).

Potentially preventable hospitalisations

In 2017–18:

  • 748,000 separations in public and private hospitals were classified as PPHs
  • PPHs accounted for 6.6% of all hospital separations—8.6% of public hospital separations and 3.6% of private hospital separations.

Unplanned readmissions

In 2017–18:

  • of the selected surgeries, rates of unplanned readmissions in public hospitals were highest for Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (39 per 1,000 separations) and Hysterectomy (29 per 1,000 separations)
  • of the selected surgeries, rates of unplanned readmissions were lowest for Cataract extractions (3 per 1,000 separations).

Hospital-acquired complications and adverse events

In 2017–18:

  • 973,000 separations (8.8%) recorded a condition that arose during the episode of care
  • in both public and private hospitals, the highest proportion of separations with a condition that arose during the episode was in the Childbirth category. This reflects hospital-acquired conditions and adverse events that arose after admission and affected obstetric care (for conditions that affect the mother).

Hand hygiene

From 1 November 2019, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care will coordinate and support all aspects of the National Hand Hygiene Initiative. The AIHW is working with the Commission to review and establish new processes for publication of hand hygiene data from both public and private hospitals.

Patient experience

In 2018–19:

  • at least 88% of patients responded ‘always’ or ‘often’ to questions about whether they felt that doctors and nurses listened, respected, and spent enough time with them
  • about 92% of patients responded ‘always’ or ‘often’ to the questions about whether the doctors or nurses showed them respect.

Where do I find more information?

More information on the measures used to report on safety and quality of hospital care are available from the following reports:

More information on patient safety and quality in Australian hospitals is available on the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare website.

More data on Hospital safety and quality: