Overview of the Commonwealth Qualified Privilege Scheme

The Commonwealth Qualified Privilege Scheme encourages health professionals to undertake quality assurance activities in connection with the provision of certain health services.

Page last updated: 25 November 2019

Health care is complex and continuously changing. This means that health care professionals need to continue to review and evaluate the quality of health care services they provide to ensure the highest possible standards of care. This process is commonly called quality assurance or practice improvement. The Commonwealth Qualified Privilege Scheme (QPS) is designed to encourage participation in certain types of quality assurance activities undertaken specifically by health care service providers, educational and research bodies, medical colleges and representative associations in connection with making evidence based improvements using de-identified data. This helps to ensure the highest quality of our health care system.

There is widespread support amongst health care professionals and consumers for open and positive participation in quality assurance activities. However, some individuals or professional groups may not participate in such activities due to concerns that identifiable information collected about clinicians or patients may be disclosed to the public and potentially used in legal action against them, or because of the risk of reputational embarrassment if their information is not otherwise protected from public disclosure. Qualified privilege provides important safeguards for health care professionals who engage in declared quality assurance activities by prohibiting the release of certain identifiable information relating to that activity and by protecting certain persons who engage in those activities from exposure to the risk of civil liability.

To be declared, the activity must meet the definition of a quality assurance activity and must include one of the following:

  • an assessment or evaluation of the quality of health services;
  • a study of the incidence or causes of conditions or circumstances that may affect the quality of health services;
  • the making of recommendations about the provision of health services as a result of that assessment, evaluation or study;
  • the monitoring of the implementation of a recommendation about the provision of health services.
In addition to this, Commonwealth qualified privilege only applies to health services involving the following Commonwealth funded activities:
  • Medicare Benefits
  • Public Hospital Services
  • Health Program Grants or
  • The prescribing of pharmaceutical products under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The legislation covering Commonwealth qualified privilege arrangements is provided in Part VC of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act), supported by Part 10, sections 84-89 of the Health Insurance Regulations 2018 (the Regulations).

Each declaration is a legislative instrument made by the Minister for Health, or the delegate of the Minister. As a legislative instrument it is required to be registered in the Federal Register of Legislation, tabled in each House of Parliament and is subject to disallowance. Each instrument is in force for a period of five years unless otherwise revoked earlier. A requirement for each declared activity is that organisations undertaking the activity must make public disclosures of de-identified results showing how the quality assurance activity has improved the relevant health services that is or are the subject of the declaration.

Commonwealth qualified privilege is designed to complement, not override, similar arrangements that may be in place in the States and Territories. It is designed to be used when a quality assurance activity takes place in more than one State or Territory. However, there are occasions when the Commonwealth legislation may be applied to an activity taking place in only one State or Territory.

If you have any questions relating to the Commonwealth QPS or would like assistance completing your application form please email the Accreditation and Registration Policy Section at QPS@health.gov.au or call on (02) 6289 4155. You can also write to the Department using the following address:
    The Director
    Accreditation and Registration Policy Section
    Department of Health
    MDP 610
    GPO Box 9848