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Standards for general practices

Core module

Criterion C3.3 – Emergency response plan

        1. Criterion C3.3 – Emergency response plan

Last revised: 24 Feb 2023


C3.3 A Our practice has an emergency response plan for unexpected events, such as natural disasters, pandemic diseases, or unplanned absences of clinical team members.

Why this is important

In an emergency, especially one such as a pandemic, the demand for healthcare services generally increases,15 so it is crucial that your practice can continue to provide services during this time, if appropriate.

Emergencies can occur on your premises and involve your patients (eg a patient suffering a cardiac arrest). Your practice team needs to consider the process for managing any incident, including roles and responsibilities (such as a first responder) as well as the processes for enacting your emergency response plan.

If your practice is prepared for an emergency, you are more likely to provide effective continuity of care for your patients, and to continue operating your business as smoothly as possible. You might consider participating in drills that involve all members of the practice team for the emergencies you have identified in your emergency response plan.

As unplanned absences of clinical team members can affect the practice’s ability to provide quality patient care, your practice could consider succession planning, or encourage practice staff to share their skills and knowledge among the practice team.

Meeting this Criterion

In an emergency, your practice may experience issues in each of the following areas:

  • Patients
    • Increased demand for services
    • Disruption to the normal health system functioning (eg inability to transfer patients to hospital)
  • Infrastructure and systems
    • Minor or significant damage to the practice’s infrastructure
    • Loss of access to vital information
    • Loss of access to essential systems, networks and communication
    • Reduced capacity or loss of key practice staff
  • Supplies and services
    • Loss of critical equipment and supplies
    • Loss of or disruption to power supply
    • Loss or contamination of water supply

To help reduce the impact of an emergency, complete appropriate emergency planning and preparation and frequently identify, review and update the actions that need to be completed before and during an emergency. These actions may include:

  • having a documented emergency response plan
  • appointing an emergency management coordinator
  • undertaking research to identify key information (eg emergency services, the local geography and previous events that have affected the community)
  • providing the practice team with education and training that will help them effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies
  • testing components of the emergency response plan (eg evacuation drills) once a year
  • reviewing, monitoring and updating the emergency response plan every three months
  • keeping the emergency kit fully stocked.

The emergency response plan could contain:

  • information on how to communicate with patients and other services
  • contact details of all members of the practice team
  • contact details for response agencies and other health services
  • details about the practice such as accounts, service providers (eg insurers, lawyers,  providers of telephone, internet and utilities) and insurance policy numbers
  • information on how the practice will triage and run clinical sessions during an emergency
  • details about where practice staff will work from in the case of an emergency
  • information on how the practice can provide telehealth services during an emergency, including the locations from which your practice will facilitate telehealth, as per the above item
  • the practice’s policy on infection control
  • details of equipment needed to manage an emergency
  • information on how to manage unplanned absenteeism of multiple practice team members (including succession planning)
  • the practice’s policy on the management of patients’ health information in computer and paperbased systems.

You must also have a recovery plan that details what the practice team could do to re-establish the practice’s operations, when appropriate, if your practice needs to close due to an emergency.

Meeting each Indicator

C3.3 A Our practice has an emergency response plan for unexpected events, such as natural disasters, pandemic diseases, or unplanned absences of clinical team members.

You must:

  • maintain an emergency response plan.

You could:

  • educate the practice team so that they understand the emergency response plan
  • create a position description for a team member responsible for maintaining the emergency response plan
  • create and test mock emergency scenarios
  • discuss and review emergency processes at team meetings, particularly the practice’s evacuation process
  • complete succession planning for key practice staff
  • encourage practice team members to share their skills and knowledge.