SLHD - Sydney Connect
Expanded role for District's auditors benefits patients and the clinicians who care for them

Collaboration key to driving change in hospitals

November 2018

Expanded role for District's auditors benefits patients and the clinicians who care for them

Expanded role for District's auditors benefits patients and the clinicians who care for them

Doctors and nurses across Sydney Local Health District have formed an innovative partnership with audit experts and are working together on the ward floor to improve a patient's experience during their stay in hospital.

The District is leading the way in NSW, with a major shift in the role of internal auditors over the past two years.

Their role has now expanded - from conducting audits of clinical trials, drug administration and waiting lists - to also scrutinising clinicians' procedures and practices when dealing with patients.

"The focus is now on clinical risks, observing processes and practices [in hospitals] and identifying ways they may be improved," the District's Director of Internal Audit Michael Clark said.

As a result, the Ministry of Health has asked the District to host the annual two-day state wide conference. This year's theme is A Healthy Future for Audit and it's being held at the Kerry Packer Education Centre at RPA next week.

The outcome of audits - which have examined the processes involved in clinical handovers, patient identification and procedure matching - at Canterbury, Concord and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals will be shared in short TED talk style presentations at the conference.

"We come in with a different set of eyes … a different perspective. We're not in an office. We could be in a theatre, the ED or a ward. We observe the steps they [doctors and nurses] are taking. It's over multiple days - day and night. Over a number of hours on multiple occasions," Mr Clark said.

The internal audit team carries out up to 35 audits across the District each year. They make recommendations about possible ways to improve practices which doctors, nurses and hospital managers consider - with collaboration the key to success.

"It's reasonable to be suspicious of us and what changes we will suggest to their [clinicians'] processes. We're not there to second guess their medical knowledge, their expertise or decision-making. We make recommendations to consider in the quest for best practice," Mr Clark said.

"We believe there is a place for auditors in this environment. But we have to earn the respect of clinicians. We are there to help them."

That collaboration has led to an invitation for auditor Fleur Harriton to join the District committee driving the implementation of new National Safety and Quality Standards being introduced next year.

"It's a partnership … to get it right from the word go. A collaborative approach benefits everyone," Ms Harriton said.

She will share her insights at the conference, which will also include panel discussions and Q and A sessions about the role of auditors and how they can make a difference to family and patient centred care.

NSW Health employees from across the state are invited to attend the conference on 13 and 14 November at KPEC.

For more information about the conference, please email

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