Improving Safety & Quality in Women’s & Newborn Care

Maternity care in Australia is safe and favourably comparable with other OECD countries in terms of both maternal and neonatal mortality.  There is however opportunity to continuously improve the quality of care provided and to reduce harms to women and babies as much as possible.

Reducing Hospital Acquired Complications

One of the ways in which WHA supports members to improve the quality of care is through benchmarking rates of Hospital Acquired Complications (HACs).  HACs are defined by the Australian Commission on Safety & Quality in Healthcare and include issues or harms that may arise for some patients in the course of their care, such as infection, surgical complications or unplanned return to theatre.    

There are two HACs specifically related to maternity care: ‘Third and fourth degree perineal lacerations during delivery’ and ‘Neonatal birth trauma’.  WHA reports rates of HACs to member hospitals to help them monitor whether their rates per birth are higher than peers, and whether they are improving or worsening over time.   

While all WHA member services work hard to prevent HACs from occurring, sometimes they are unavoidable.  WHA helps members to share data about the frequency and types of HACs that are occurring, and to share information, strategies & resources aimed at reducing the risk of HACs in the future.   

Data driven quality improvement

Informed by trends evident in our Benchmarking data, WHA actively supports member hospitals interested to improve the quality of care and outcomes on one or more priority issues.  For example in 2018-19, WHA hosted a national Breakthrough Collaborative to reduce the rate of harms from third and fourth degree perineal tears. The outcomes and resources from this project are feely available to other hospitals wishing to make improvement in this area.
In 2022-2024, WHA is working with hospitals to help them reduce rates of pre-term and early term birth, both of which have potential for significant morbidity for babies and their families.
In both of these Collaborative improvement projects, WHA assists participating hospitals to capture, evaluate and apply data related to both the processes and outcomes of their care, in order to improve the reliability with which they deliver evidence based care to women.