Standard 3

Preventing and Controlling Healthcare Associated Infections

NSQHS Standards Standard 3 - Preventing and Controlling Healthcare Associated Infections


This page contains information about the first edition of the NSQHS standards. This edition has been superseded by the second edition that was endorsed by the Health Ministers in June 2017 and released in November 2017.

This latest edition addresses the gaps that were identified in the first edition, including mental health and cognitive impairment, health literacy, end-of-life care, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Health service organisations will be assessed to the second edition from January 2019.

To find information and resources for the second edition, visit the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care's new NSQHS Standards microsite.

Key messages

  1. All patients are potentially at risk of preventable hospital acquired infection.
  2. It is the responsibility of health care workers to minimise the risk of infection for all patients, visitors and staff.
  3. Standard precautions should be used for all patients at all times.
  4. Explain infection prevention and control practices to patients, visitors and carers.


Healthcare associated infections are the most common complication affecting patients in hospitals. Each year, around 200,000 healthcare associated infections are contracted by patients in Australia.

At least half of healthcare associated infections are preventable. Successful infection control to minimise the risk of transmission requires a range of strategies across all levels of the healthcare system and a collaborative approach for successful implementation.

The aim of this Standard is to prevent patients acquiring preventable healthcare associated infections and to effectively manage infections when they occur using evidence-based strategies.

In brief, this Standard requires that:

  • Effective governance and management systems for healthcare associated infections are implemented and maintained.
  • Strategies for the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections are developed and implemented.
  • Patients presenting with, or acquiring an infection or colonisation during their care are identified promptly and receive the necessary management and treatment.
  • Safe and appropriate antimicrobial prescribing is a strategic goal of the clinical governance system.
  • Healthcare facilities and the associated environment are clean and hygienic. Reprocessing of equipment and instrumentation meets current best practice guidelines.
  • Information on healthcare associated infection is provided to patients, carers, consumers and service providers.

Facts and Figures

It is estimated the excess length of stay due to a surgical site infection is between 3.5 and 23 hospital bed days, depending on the type of infection.

The total national number of bed days due to surgical site infections for a one year period was estimated to be 206,527 bed days.

If there was optimal use of antimicrobials and containment of antimicrobial resistance, $300 million of the Australian national healthcare budget could be redirected to more effective use every year.

Information above is taken directly from the Safety and Quality Improvement Guide Standard 3: Preventing and Controlling Healthcare Associated Infections, October 2012 document published in the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care website.

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Responsibilities under Standard 3 include:

  • perform effective hand hygiene as outlined in Hand Hygiene Australia’s ‘5 moments for hand hygiene
  • use personal protective equipment
  • ensure correct aseptic technique during clinical procedures
  • follow respiratory hygiene practices and cough etiquette at all times
  • use transmission based precautions to control the spread of infection through contact, droplet or airborne routes
  • follow the correct procedures for the cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation of reusable instruments and equipment
  • comply with antimicrobial stewardship programs
  • provide support to patients who experience health care associated infections.

CSDS courses

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) eLearning course covers what EVD is, how it is transmitted, details around infectivity, and the proper application of personal protective equipme... More info
1 hour/s

Related links and further information

Below is a full copy of the Preventing and Controlling Healthcare Associated Infections contained in the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards. It includes the criteria, items and actions required for health services to meet this Standard and is available on the Commission’s website at

  • Download Safety and Quality Improvement Guide Standard 3: Preventing and Controlling Healthcare Associated Infections, October 2012