Clinical handover and teamwork

Health care usually involves multiple health professionals over a variety of settings. A patient’s care journey may begin with their general practitioner and follow on to a medical specialist, hospital, and then home. At each transition of care, clinical handover should occur.

Clinical handover is the transfer of professional responsibility and accountability for some or all aspects of care for a patient or group of patients, to another person or professional group in a temporary or permanent basis.

The Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) has taken a national and international lead in clinical handover improvement and provides key resources such as The OSSIE Guide to Clinical Handover Improvement to support this work.

SA Health resources

The SA Health Clinical Communication and Patient Identification Clinical Directive (PDF 159KB) sets the standard for clinical handover practice across SA Health. The clinical directive requires the use of a standard mnemonic, ISBAR, to support safe practice of clinical handover.

National Safety and Quality Service Standard 6: Communicating for Safety

The NSQHS Standard 6: Communicating for Safety describes actions that need to be met for accreditation:

6.7 The health service organisation, in collaboration with clinicians, defines the:

  • minimum information content to be communicated at clinical handover, based on best-practice guidelines
  • risks relevant to the service context and the particular needs of patients, carers and families
  • clinicians who are involved in the clinical handover

6.8 Clinicians use structured clinical handover processes that include:

  • preparing and scheduling clinical handover
  • having the relevant information at clinical handover
  • organising relevant clinicians and others to participate in clinical handover
  • being aware of the patient’s goals and preferences
  • supporting patients, carers and families to be involved in clinical handover, in accordance with the wishes of the patient
  • ensuring that clinical handover results in the transfer of responsibility and accountability for care

The SA Health Accreditation Resource Standard 6: Communicating for Safety identifies the resources that are available to support each action.

Education and training

Clinical Handover Education

The “Know the Plan, Share the Plan, Review the Risk” is a series of six videos developed for the purpose of training staff in best practice clinical handover. This series follows a patient’s journey of care from home to rural emergency department via ambulance, to metro hospital, from recovery to ward, and then transfer back to country hospital for rehabilitation.

TeamSTEPPS® 2.0 AU

TeamSTEPPS® 2.0 AU is an evidence-based program to improve teamwork and communication for the purpose of improving patient safety.


Clinical Governance Unit