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Patient safety in primary health care

Primary health care is the first level of contact with the national health system for individuals, families and communities. The primary healthcare system brings health care as close as possible to where people live and work, and constitutes the first element of a continuing healthcare process.

Primary health includes health promotion, prevention, early intervention, treatment of acute and other conditions, management of chronic conditions, and end-of-life care. In Australia, primary health care is delivered across several settings by a diverse range of healthcare providers. These include registered health practitioners such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, dentists, general practitioners, optometrists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, practice nurses and psychologists, and self-regulated practitioners such as audiologists, dietitians and exercise physiologists.

Although the current primary healthcare system performs well and most care is associated with good clinical outcomes, some people do not receive the care that is recommended to them, and others are inadvertently harmed by the care they receive.

As part of the Commission’s focus on supporting the safe delivery of care wherever care is delivered, several projects are under way to develop nationally consistent strategies, tools and resources to support improvements in primary health care. In 2019–20, the Commission undertook work in the following areas.