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Posted on 24 Feb 2022
Incident response/review

Patients who are seriously harmed in hospitals will receive a genuine apology, understand what happened and why, and be part of future improvements – thanks to legislative amendments passed by Parliament yesterday.

Amendments to the Health Services Act 1988 will improve transparency in Victoria’s health system, by encouraging staff to report adverse outcomes, and talk openly with patients if something goes wrong.

For the first time in Australia, public and private hospitals will be required to:

  • apologise to any person seriously harmed while receiving care 
  • explain what went wrong
  • describe what action will be taken and improvements put in place.

Building on the Australian Open Disclosure Framework, the amendments also introduce legal protections around health service apologies and clinical incident reviews. This means that any apologies and internal reports cannot be used in a court of law but will be available to patients or their family members and carers. 

These legal protections will bring Victoria into line with other Australian states. 

This is the final legislative reform to be implemented from the Targeting Zero report (2016), which found there was a historical lack of open disclosure with patients.

Coming into effect from November 2022, the amendments are the result of five years of consultation with expert healthcare workers, leaders and consumers by Safer Care Victoria.

Information for health services

We are developing guidelines, training and resources to help you prepare and implement the changes at your health service, and to monitor staff compliance.

The guidelines will outline the procedure of completing serious adverse patient safety event (SAPSE) reviews within health services when a serious event has occurred.*

*Incident severity ratings 1 (severe harm or death) and 2 (moderate harm) under the current Victorian health incident management policy.

Page last updated: 25 Feb 2022