National Safety and Quality Primary Healthcare (NSQPH) Standards

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) is developing safety and quality standards for services that deliver care to people in a primary healthcare setting.

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Development of the National Safety and Quality Primary Healthcare Standards

The Commission is developing National Safety and Quality Primary Healthcare (NSQPH) Standards to assist primary healthcare services to minimise the risk of harm and improve care for patients. They are being developed in collaboration with primary healthcare providers, consumers, peak professional bodies, Primary Health Networks and other sector representatives.

Public consultation on the draft NSQPH Standards is now closed. The Commission is reviewing the information received, which will inform the finalisation of the NSQPH Standards for publication in 2021.

The public consultation on the draft NSQPH Standards was conducted between October 2020 and January 2021. During this time, the Commission sought feedback on the draft NSQPH Standards via an online voting poll, written submissions or participation in a consultation forum.

In 2019, a preliminary consultation on safety and quality issues in primary health care was held throughout Australia between May and July. This involved 20 face-to-face workshops, three online workshops and an online survey for services and consumers. Workshops were conducted in Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Broken Hill, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Launceston Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. A total of 211 primary healthcare providers and 105 consumers provided feedback.

The 2019 consultation has informed the development of the draft NSQPH Standards, along with expert advice and input from the Commission’s NSQPH Standards Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of peak professional bodies, Primary Health Networks, consumers and primary healthcare providers.

Implementation and accreditation

The NSQPH Standards are being developed for services that deliver health care to people in a primary healthcare setting.

The Commission is also working towards developing and releasing accompanying resources together with the publication of the NSQPH Standards to provide primary healthcare services with practical support as they progress their implementation.

Primary healthcare services will be able to become accredited to the NSQPH Standards. Accreditation will provide assurances to the community that a primary healthcare service meets expected standards for safety and quality.

Some primary healthcare services may already be accredited to quality improvement standards, such as profession-specific standards. The NSQPH Standards aim to provide a consistent national framework for safety and quality improvement activities across the primary healthcare sector.

Where possible, the Commission will work with relevant organisations to investigate mechanisms to reduce the administrative burden associated with accreditation to multiple sets of standards.


A significant proportion of health care is provided by primary care services but little is known about the frequency, causes and consequences of errors and adverse events in this sector. There is also limited evidence on effective patient safety initiatives in this sector. Risks to patient safety can occur in both acute and primary care settings, including large tertiary hospitals, small rural services and general practices.

Since 2009, the Commission has been working to better understand the issues that affect patient safety in primary care settings. This is part of the Commission’s commitment to develop nationally consistent strategies, tools and resources to support improvements in patient safety and quality in primary health care.

Outcomes of this work include literature reviews, a discussion paper and a consultation report.

In 2017, the Commission undertook a preliminary consultation process to better understand how the Commission could support and improve safety and quality in the primary healthcare sector. For further details on the consultation process and findings, refer to the 2017 consultation paper and report released in July 2018.

Analysis of the feedback received through this consultation process identified that the majority of respondents were supportive of the Commission developing the NSQPH Standards.