Open disclosure and what it means for Aboriginal health services


Open disclosure is about openly discussing with patients, their family, carers and other support persons, incidents that result in harm to a patient while receiving health care.

Since 2003 all Australian governments have endorsed a policy of open disclosure in health care. Open disclosure is part of standard 1 of the Australian Quality and Safety Commission’s National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. In December 2013, the Australian Quality and Safety Commission released the Australian Open Disclosure Framework. All Australian governments and numerous health profession bodies have endorsed the Framework. The Framework was introduced for the purpose of providing consistency across all health services in the country, not just those requiring accreditation pursuant to the NSQHS standards.

What this means is that The Australian Open Disclosure Framework is intended for use by all health services in Australia including Aboriginal community controlled health services.

This module discusses the framework and sets out the steps to take when an incident occurs that causes harm to a patient.

What is required of each individual within the health service will depend on the role of the individual. What is required of clinicians involved in an incident, as well as requirements for managers and CEOs is outlined. Links are provided to important documents that should be referenced when an incident occurs.

The module is aimed at all clinicians and managers within an Aboriginal health service. In the context of open disclosure, the term ‘clinicians’ includes registered and non-registered clinicians, allied health workers and students working under the supervision of clinicians.

This module is based on the resources provided by the Australian Quality and Safety Commission. All information has been adapted from or taken directly from the Commission’s resources. To view the resources and for more information go to and refer to the references.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Understand why open disclosure is important.
  • Understand the principles of open disclosure.
  • Know when open disclosure is required.
  • Be able to proceed with an open disclosure discussion.

Other Modules to Explore