Clinical deterioration

Despite having highly qualified and dedicated staff and high tech equipment, early recognition and appropriate timely response to patients who are clinically deteriorating - in either physiological or mental state - may not always occur and could result in the missed opportunity to prevent serious morbidity or death in the acute health care setting. The South Australian Department for Health and Wellbeing, Safety and Quality Unit lead the coordination of a state-wide standardised approach to SA Health services systems and tools to improve early recognition and appropriate, timely and effective response to clinical deterioration.

SA Health resources

Policy Guideline

The SA Health Recognising and Responding to Clinical Deterioration Policy Directive (PDF 283KB) describes the roles and responsibilities of employees of health service organisations in improving and supporting the recognition and response to clinical deterioration in acute health care. The policy aims to promote effective recognition, response and management of the deteriorating patient in SA Health services, that takes into account the patient preferences and advance care directives.

National Safety and Quality Service Standard 8: Recognising and Responding to Acute Deterioration

The NSQHS Standard Recognising and Responding to Acute Deterioration describes actions that need to be met for accreditation:

  • 8.1 Clinicians use the safety and quality systems from the Clinical Governance Standard
  • 8.2 The health service organisation applies the quality improvement system from the Clinical Governance Standard
  • 8.3 Clinicians use organisational processes from the Partnering with Consumers Standard when recognising and responding to acute deterioration
  • 8.6 The health service organisation has protocols that specify criteria for escalating care
  • 8.8 The health service organisation provides the workforce with mechanisms to escalate care and call for emergency assistance
  • 8.9 The workforce uses the recognition and response systems to escalate care
  • 8.10 The health service organisation has processes that support timely response by clinicians with the skills required to manage episodes of acute deterioration
  • 8.11 The health service organisation has processes to ensure rapid access at all times to at least one clinician, either on site or in close proximity, who can deliver advanced life support

The SA Health Accreditation Resource Standard 8: Recognising and Responding to Acute Deterioration identifies the resources that are available to support each action.

See also the NSQHS Clinician Fact Sheet: Acute Deterioration.


Clinical Governance Unit