Elective surgery: National Access Guarantee and Targets

The Government will improve access to elective surgery in public hospitals by fast-tracking elective surgery for patients who have waited longer than clinically-recommended times under a new National Access Guarantee and establishing new access targets for elective surgery.

Elective surgery: National Access Guarantee and Targets fact sheet (PDF 62 KB)

How does the National Access Guarantee work?
How does the target for elective surgery work?
What type of financial rewards will hospitals get for meeting the new standards?
What has the Australian Government done so far to reduce elective surgery waiting lists?

Many public patients are waiting too long to have elective surgery.

The Australian Government is taking action through its National Health and Hospitals Network.

The Government will improve access to elective surgery in public hospitals by:


How does the National Access Guarantee work?

Any patient from 1 July 2012 who has to wait longer than clinically-recommended times will be prioritised and have their elective surgery fast-tracked. This could include having their surgery performed at another hospital – public or private – in the same or neighbouring Local Hospital Network, at no cost to the patient.

Urgency Categories for Surgery Patients
Category Description
Category 1 Has the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point that it may become an emergency – patients admitted within 30 days
Category 2 Causing some pain, dysfunction or disability but not likely to deteriorate quickly or become an emergency – patients admitted within 90 days
Category 3 Causing minimal or no pain, dysfunction or disability, unlikely to deteriorate quickly, and no potential to become an emergency – patients admitted within 365 days

The National Access Guarantee means if it is clinically safe, patients will have their surgery within the following periods:
States and territories will be responsible for meeting the National Access Guarantee and will be required to identify when patients are not being treated on time.

They will work with patients, clinicians and Local Hospital Networks to offer surgery to patients, either within Local Hospitals Networks, through another Local Hospital Network, or at a private hospital, at the state’s expense.

The National Access Guarantee will start from 1 July 2012, to allow states and territories to reduce the number of overdue patients. There will be a single national hotline for people who need the National Access Guarantee to be enforced.

How does the target for elective surgery work?

Under the target, 95 per cent of patients waiting for surgery in Categories 1 and 2 will be treated within clinically-recommended times by December 2014, and 95 per cent of patients waiting for surgery in Category 3 will be treated within clinically-recommended times by December 2015.

The target will be staged from 2011 to allow for gradual improvements each year and performance will be assessed and reported every six months.

What type of financial rewards will hospitals get for meeting the new standards?

The Government will support the National Access Guarantee and the target for elective surgery with a package of financial rewards. This will be structured as $300 million in upfront payments in 2010-2011 and $350 million in financial rewards for Local Hospital Networks that meet or beat their targets.

Upfront payments will be provided to help with the costs of delivering additional surgery services and to help clear waiting list backlogs, through the provision of about 43,000 additional services.

What has the Australian Government done so far to reduce elective surgery waiting lists?

Since 2007 the Government has provided $600 million to the states and territories in three stages through the Elective Surgery Waiting List Reduction Plan, which included:
The Government also increased its funding to state and territory hospitals under the National Health Care Agreements by 50 per cent to $64 billion over five years.

Further information on the National Health and Hospitals Network is available at the Your Health website.Top of page

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Page last updated 26 July, 2013