Safety and Quality > Our Work > Medication Safety

The Commission works to improve the safety and quality of medication use in Australia. We lead and coordinate national initiatives to reduce medication errors and harm from medicines.

Medication safety is also part of the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards.

Information in these pages can help health service organisations and clinicians identify and implement strategies to improve medication safety.

WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge – Medication without harm

The Commission is seeking feedback on the draft of Australia’s national response to the third World Health Organization Global Patient Safety Challenge – Medication without harm.

In March 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the third Global Patient Safety Challenge (Challenge) with the theme of medication without harm. The goal of the Challenge is to gain worldwide commitment and action to reduce severe, avoidable medication-related harm by 50% in the next five years. The Australian Government made a commitment to participate in the Challenge, and the Commission is tasked with developing a national response.

The three focus areas of the Challenge are high-risk situations (high-risk medicines), polypharmacy and transitions of care. The high-risk medicines are anti-psychotics, insulin, opioids, heparin and anti-coagulants. More information on the focus areas can be found in the booklet from the WHO, Medication without harm 2017. To download the document visit: https://www.who.int/patientsafety/medication-safety/en/

In Australia, the goal is to reduce medication errors, adverse drug events and medication-related hospital admissions by 50% by 2025. The Commission is seeking input from stakeholders with programs that address high-risk medicines, polypharmacy, and transitions of care.

To provide a response to the Challenge discussion paper please download and send a completed feedback form to medsafety@safetyandquality.gov.au. Consultation closes Friday 5 July 2019.

Hospital medication charts

Medication charts can help standardise medication management and increase medication safety.

The main national hospital medication charts in Australia are:

  • National inpatient medication charts (NIMCs)
  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Hospital Medication Chart (PBS HMC).

Medication reconciliation

Medication reconciliation means that the medicines the patient should be prescribed match those that are prescribed.

Safer medicines administration

The Commission and the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) have developed joint safety statements intended to reduce harm from accidental and erroneous injection of substances.  The statements were developed following approaches from the clinical anaesthetic community, and supported by analyses of safety incidents.

 

Medicine safety in paediatrics

The Commission has developed a position statement on paediatric prescribing with support from professional organisations and colleges.

The statement promotes best practice in prescribing, dispensing and administering of medicines for paediatric patients.

High Risk Medicines

High risk medicines (HRMs) are medicines that have an increased risk of causing significant patient harm or death if they are misused or used in error.

HRMS include:

  • Medicines with a narrow therapeutic index
  • Medicines that present a high risk when
    • Administered via the wrong route or
    • Other medication management system errors occur.

Quality use of medicines in hospitals

The National Indicators for Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) in Australian Hospitals 2014 support measurement of safety and quality of medicines use for quality improvement purposes, and help health services to drive changes in healthcare practice.

Medication safety in mental health

Medication is an integral part of treatment for many people living with serious mental illness, who often use medication for years. The side effects of medications used to treat mental illness can lead to the development or exacerbation of physical health problems. Addressing medication safety in mental health can contribute to tackling this problem.

Medication safety tools and resources

Tools and resources for medication safety include:

  • Self-assessment tools
  • Evidence briefs on interventions to improve medication safety
  • Education and training on medication safety and quality.