The National Health Performance Authority was set up under the National Health Reform Act 2011 as an independent body to provide locally relevant and nationally consistent information on the performance of healthcare organisations and health systems.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a set of nearly 50 indicators that will be used by the Authority to report on the performance of hospitals and other health service providers. The Authority has chosen to focus this, its first report, on a subset of those indicators that relate to the performance of public hospitals and their emergency departments (EDs).

In particular, the report examines the extent to which patients depart public hospital EDs within four hours of arrival, following the introduction of the National Emergency Access Target (NEAT). Under the target, states and territories are expected to ensure that 90% of all patients presenting to public hospital EDs will depart within four hours by 2015.

This report is based on data from 134 major, large, medium and specialist public hospitals and about 5.9 million ED presentations. Hospitals were classified by location, and also classified as major, large or medium based on the number of ED presentations and hospital separations per year (Table 1, page 2).

In 2013 the Authority will publish reports each quarter on the comparable performance of healthcare organisations to stimulate improvements in the Australian health system, to increase transparency and accountability and to inform consumers.