Standard 6

Clinical Handover

NSQHS Standards Standard 6 - Clinical Handover


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 This edition has been superseded by the second edition that was endorsed by the Health Ministers in June 2017 and released in November 2017.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. Timely, relevant and structured clinical handover is vital for patient safety.
  2. Handover should occur at change of shift, at patient transfer or discharge to another facility.
  3. Standardisation of handover improves consistency in the exchange of critical information.
  4. Handover should actively involve the patient and carer as they can provide information that is not necessarily available to clinicians.


Clinical handover is the transfer of professional responsibility and accountability for some or all aspects of care for a patient to another person or professional group. It involves the transfer of patient information between individuals or groups and is an important part of clinical care.

Clinical handover is practised in a large number of ways in all healthcare settings every day. Breakdown in the transfer of information or in ‘communication’ has been identified as one of the most important contributing factors in serious adverse events and is a major preventable cause of patient harm. Poor handover of information can also lead to waste of resources. The consequences of poor handover include: unnecessary delays in diagnosis, treatment and care; repeated tests, missed or delayed communication of test results; and incorrect treatment or medication errors.

The use of a standard process for clinical handover has been shown to improve the safety of patient care because critical information is more likely to be transferred and acted upon. The information that is transferred between healthcare providers should include all relevant data, be accurate, unambiguous and occur in timely manner.

The aim of this Standard is to ensure there is timely, relevant and structured clinical handover that supportssafe patient care.

In brief, this Standard requires that:

  • Health service organisations implement effective clinical handover systems.
  • Health service organisations have documented and structured clinical handover processes in place.
  • Health service organisations establish mechanisms to include patients and carers in clinical handover processes

Facts and Figures

Approximately 7,068,000 clinical handovers occur annually in Australian hospitals and about 26,200,000 clinical handovers are carried out in community care settings each year.

Clinical handover using face-to-face communication provides more opportunity to clarify information.

Engaging in verbal handover only, compared to verbal handover with some documentation, relies heavily on memory skills and has been classified as high risk.

Information above is taken directly from the Safety and Quality Improvement Guide Standard 6: Clinical Handover, October 2012 document published in the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care website.

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Responsibilities under Standard 6 include:

  • use the structured handover tools agreed by your organisation
  • review and update all necessary documentation prior to handover
  • ensure patients and carers understand current progress, treatment options and the plan of care
  • encourage patients and carers to ask questions and ensure they fully understand the answers
  • ensure face to face handover wherever possible as it allows interaction and clarification of information
  • maintain patient privacy and confidentiality at all times
  • ensure the transfer of accountability and responsibility for patient care as part of the handover process
  • actively involve patients and carers in discharge planning and ensure they are updated about progress and are aware of details of transfer and discharge.

eLearning modules

Other eLearning resources

Cairns and Hinterland HHS, West Moreton HHS

Metro South HHS

Queensland Health iLearn

South Australia Health Digital media eLearning

Available only to South Australia Health employees

CSDS courses

This course aims to create a greater understanding of human factors and their impact on healthcare workers and patient safety within the speciality of anaesthesia.... More info
Face to Face
1 day/s
From 610
The Crisis resource management (CRM) course focuses on the effective management of resources in a crisis. The aim of this course is to introduce healthcare professionals to th... More info
Face to Face
2 hour/s
From 160
The Queensland Health Pre-Employment Structured Clinical Interview (PESCI). For more information, visit our PESCI page at: More info
Face to Face
1.5 hour/s
From 2,000

Further information

Below is a full copy of the Clinical Handover 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 6: Clinical Handover, October 2012