Review of the Root Cause Analysis (RCA) legislation

24 July 2009

In June 2009, the NSW Department of Health issued a discussion paper on the review of statutory privilege in relation to root cause analysis and quality assurance committees. The Health Care Complaints Commission has made a submission recommending that the statutory privilege should not continue.

In the course of its complaint-handling work over many years, the Commission has dealt with a large number of complaints about the health care and treatment provided by public hospitals, and by health practitioners working in those hospitals. The Commission has had extensive contact with both patients and health practitioners and can appreciate the different perspectives raised in relation to the issues covered in the discussion paper.

When something unexpected happens in a public hospital, in serious cases, a ‘root cause analysis’ (RCA) is undertaken. There is a legal privilege attached to the process, which means that none of the information obtained through an RCA investigation can be used for the purpose of explaining in detail the reasons for the adverse event to a patient or their family. The Health Care Complaints Commission states in its submission that the RCA privilege is fundamentally incompatible with the process of open disclosure. The Commission’s position is that the RCA privilege should not continue, or if it is it should be extended to allow open and frank explanations to patients and their families.

You can access the discussion paper issued by the Department of Health on the NSW Department of Health’s website

Health Care Complaints Commission’s submission

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