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Monday, December 01, 2008

Sun set to shine on performance that matters in NSW Health.

Just to follow on from COAG's Communique on the publication of health and education performance information,the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Acute Care Services in NSW Public Hospitals by Peter Garling S.C was released on 27 November.

The Report runs to three volumes and over a 1000 pages - The Executive Summary and Recommendations is a little easier to navigate.

Garling proposes four pillars of reform to require NSW Health to change and adapt to the new, with a four year IT plan for up-to-date technology, and the publication of meaningful information on performance in the provision of quality safe care at the top of the list.

(It's wonderfully ironic that on the same day the report was released Ross Coulthart and Nick Farrow won the Gold Walkley for Journalism for uncovering earlier this year the deeds of "The Butcher of Bega" through "weeks of painstaking work ( that) uncovered dozens of victims, including fatalities, and the failure of the NSW health system to stop it." And that we had headlines like this " Butcher review kept secret" just last May.

On health information (Summary 1.53-1.60), Garling says:
"All of the leading world experts to whom I spoke, told me that understanding, analysing and publishing sensibly health information will lead to big improvements in health care. They are right. Information is the basis for knowing where health care in hospitals is at, where it has to go,and when it has arrived."
The current regime only measures how quickly people are seen in the Emergency Department or have their surgery. Garling recommends the establishment within three months of an independent Bureau of Health Information to identify, develop and publish patient care measurements on seven criteria designed to show whether patients were treated safely and properly. After a year, he recommends publication of quarterly reports on these criteria regarding performance of each unit or ward, hospital, area health service and NSW Health as a whole.

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