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Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care

Winter 2021 News

Issue Monday 5 July

In this issue

New AURA 2021 – your sneak peek

AURA 2021

AURA 2021, Australia’s fourth national report on Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia, is coming soon!

This new report will reveal the most frequently used antimicrobials and the key antimicrobial resistance issues we face in Australia.

Highlights of AURA 2021 include international comparisons, a preliminary analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on community antimicrobial use, and detailed analyses on antimicrobial prescribing in the community.

Keep an eye on our website and Twitter feed for the release in the next couple of months.

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Hand hygiene – seconds save lives

Hand hygiene

In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, World Hand Hygiene Day on 5 May 2021 gave an extra boost to public awareness of hand hygiene as a simple, fast and effective way to prevent infection with the message ‘seconds save lives – clean your hands!’.

A strong national focus on hand hygiene in health care saw our National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI) help desk receive more than 6000 queries in the first half of the year. The start of the calendar year is traditionally a busy period for the help desk as it coincides with annual orientations, new starters, the beginning of clinical placements and the end of the national audit period. The help desk provides a telephone support line and email service for NHHI users and the general public.

Got a query about hand hygiene and preventing infection? Contact our help desk for advice.

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Essential elements for excellent end-of-life care

End-of-life Essentials

More than 50% of Australians spend their final moments in acute care. The right care can significantly reduce the distress of the dying and the grief of loved ones.

Our new Delivering and Supporting Comprehensive End-of-Life Care user guide covers 10 essential elements for delivering excellent end-of-life care.

Excellent end-of-life care is about delivering comprehensive care that aligns with the patient’s needs and preferences, and considers the impact of their condition on their life and wellbeing.

This guide has practical strategies to support health services and clinicians in improving care and implementing the six end-of-life care actions in the Comprehensive Care Standard along with the National Consensus Statement: Essential elements for safe and high-quality end-of-life care (Adults and Paediatric).

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New module to reduce the climate costs of care

Climate costs module

Health services use immense amounts of resources in delivering care to their patients.

The Commission is developing a Climate Risk module for consultation, to help increase awareness of and reduce the climate risks that health services are facing. The module will include practical actions aiming to reduce health service organisations’ environmental footprint and enable them to adapt to climate risks.

Improving the environmental sustainability of health services is an opportunity to improve the safety and quality of care, improve the health of the community, and reduce low value care and unwarranted variation.

Accreditation to the module will be voluntary. Register your interest now or find out more on our webpage.

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Cognitive impairment – a better way to care

Cognitive impairment

People living with cognitive impairment such as dementia, delirium or intellectual disability are far more likely to have an adverse event in hospital than those without cognitive impairment. With the confusion and distress of hospitalisation reducing the person’s communication abilities and exacerbating symptoms, there are many opportunities to provide better care.

Our Cognitive impairment webpage is a great place to start, with a host of resources to support health services implementing actions in the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards. Head to our dedicated website for videos, webinars, resources and the latest cognitive impairment news. You’ll also find inspiring stories from teams and individuals who took practical steps to improve hospital care for people with cognitive impairment.

New resources on caring for people with intellectual disability are coming soon. In the meantime, if you have a question, suggestion or story to share, we’d love to hear it – email us at cognitive.impairment@safetyandquality.gov.au.

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Stopping sepsis

Stopping sepsis

Around 5000 people die of sepsis in Australia each year.

The National Sepsis Program is well underway to help improve the outcomes for patients with sepsis. Our Epidemiology of Sepsis in Australian Public Hospitals report presents the first national epidemiological snapshot of sepsis and its impact on Australians. As part of the program, we have also updated the Antimicrobial Stewardship Clinical Care Standard, produced a Sepsis Survivorship report, and reviewed sepsis trigger tools to improve early identification.

Our next steps are developing a dedicated Sepsis Clinical Care Standard and a national retrospective medical record review of sepsis patient documentation, followed by a public awareness campaign.

This program is being delivered on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Health, in partnership with The George Institute for Global Health. Find out more and keep track of our progress on the National Sepsis Program webpage.

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‘Should I take antibiotics?’ – Choosing the best treatment

Sore throat

When it comes to a sore throat, acute bronchitis or middle ear infection, it’s not always easy for consumers to know whether they should take antibiotics.

Our updated ‘Should I take antibiotics?’ decision aids for consumers and clinicians provide clear evidence for the possible benefits, harms and alternatives.

You can find these handy resources on our Decision support tools webpage.

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Bowel cancer – how to reduce your risk

Bowel cancer fact sheet

Bowel cancer is Australia's second deadliest cancer, but more than 50% of cases are caused by modifiable lifestyle risk factors.

Our practical fact sheet has nine actions consumers can take to reduce their risk, with simple changes to diet and lifestyle, as well as screening. Share it far and wide!

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Updated Preventing and Controlling Infections Standard

Preventing and controlling infections

Are you up-to-date with the current National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards, including the 2021 Preventing and Controlling Infections Standard? If not, see our handy fact sheet which maps the changes between the 2017 and 2021 Preventing and Controlling Infections Standard.

Updated to incorporate lessons learned from COVID-19, the 2021 standard provides additional support to assist health services in preventing, controlling and responding to infections that cause outbreaks, epidemics or pandemics, including novel and emerging infections.

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Culturally appropriate colonoscopy resources

Colonoscopy resources

A new video and fact sheet are now available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with practical information about having a colonoscopy.

Aligning with the Colonoscopy Clinical Care Standard, they cover everything from consumers’ rights and choices, to what to do before and after a colonoscopy.

The video is currently being screened on Aboriginal Health Television at 145 clinics across Australia. If you would like to screen the video at your healthcare practice or clinic, contact our Clinical Care Standards team at ccs@safetyandquality.gov.au.

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New case definition for SABSI surveillance

SABSI surveillance

To support the implementation of the revised national benchmark for Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia – 1.0 per 10,000 patient days – the Commission has reviewed and updated the surveillance case definition.

Changes include the terminology for Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infection (SABSI) to more accurately reflect the clinical disease, and changes to Criterion A, B2, and B4 to better reflect the scope of each criterion.

See our updated Implementation Guide for the Surveillance of Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infection for details.

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Best practice cleaning beats infection


Environmental cleaning is a critical standard precaution that should feature in every health service organisation’s infection prevention and control program.

The Commission has a suite of environmental cleaning resources available to support health service organisations in responding to COVID-19 and other infections. These align with the advice provided by the Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare and the environmental cleaning actions in the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards.

New resources focusing on information for cleaners, and environmental cleaning for small health service organisations have just been added to the suite. Other resources include guidance on purchasing environmental cleaning products, auditing environmental cleaning in acute care settings, and using new environmental cleaning technologies.

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Careers at the Commission

Meet Kim Stewart, Director, AURA, Infection Prevention and Control and Healthcare-Associated Infections…

Photo of Kim Stewart

What is your role, in 25 words or less?

I am a member of the leadership team for the Commission’s work on antimicrobial use and resistance, infection prevention and control and healthcare-associated infections.

What did you do before the Commission?

I commenced working in health as a student nurse at Prince Henry Hospital. After working for a few years as a registered nurse, I got a job in the NSW Department of Health AIDS Bureau as a clinical policy advisor. That move was the start of a long and very fulfilling series of policy, program management and leadership roles in public and population health. The portfolio areas I led during my time at NSW Health included AIDS/Infectious Diseases, Aboriginal Health, Health Protection and the Office of the Chief Health Officer.

What was your first job?

My first job was in retail at the age of 16. I worked on the checkout for a large supermarket chain, where I was regularly tested on and assessed against the 10-step process for dealing with every trolley of groceries. The first step was ‘Welcome the customer with a smile or other greeting’ – an early and important introduction to the concepts of placing the client at the centre of things and providing a quality service.

The question I hear most often in my work is…

What can be done to prevent and control antimicrobial resistance? The answer is there’s a lot we can all do. The AURA Surveillance System includes a wealth of data on antimicrobial use and resistance in Australia, and analyses of these data are published regularly on the Commission’s website. Health service organisations can ensure that they’ve got systems, policies and processes in place to meet the infection prevention and control and antimicrobial stewardship requirements of the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. Clinicians and other healthcare workers can follow antimicrobial prescribing and infection prevention and control guidelines, and we can all think very carefully, in consultation with our treating doctors, about whether we really need antibiotics when we are unwell.

What are the top three things on your to-do list?

I’ve just ticked off my number one priority for this year, which was to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect myself, and contribute to protecting the whole community. I’ll be working with the talented AURA team on finalising and launching AURA 2021: Fourth report on antimicrobial use and resistance in human health; and working with the NSQHS Standards team to support the implementation of the 2021 Preventing and Controlling Infections Standard. The new standard provides further support to health service organisations to prevent, control and respond to infections that cause outbreaks, epidemics or pandemics, including novel and emerging infections.

What are you looking forward to in 2021?

The launch of AURA 2021 is only the beginning of the important process of communicating the latest trends in antimicrobial resistance and use in the Australian health system to states, territories, the private health sector, clinicians and consumers. Working with my colleagues, the health system and consumers on the response to the findings is critical to improving the safety of care provided to patients. We’ll be collaborating closely with our health system partners on strategies to improve surveillance, infection prevention and control and antimicrobial prescribing and use.

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e: mail@safetyandquality.gov.au