Your browser has 'Cookies' disabled, alert boxes will continue to appear without this feature.

Interpretive guide to the RACGP Standards

for Aboriginal community controlled health services

Standard 5.3 Clinical support processes

Our practice has working processes that support safety and the quality of clinical care.

Criterion 5.3.1

Safe and quality use of medicines

Our clinical team prescribes, dispenses and administers appropriate medicines safely to informed patients.


► A. Our clinical team can demonstrate how our patients are informed about the purpose, importance, benefits and risks of their medicines and how patients are made aware of their own responsibility to comply with the recommended treatment plan.

► B. Our clinical team can demonstrate how we access current information on medicines and review our prescribing patterns in accordance with best available evidence.

► C. Our clinical team can demonstrate how we ensure patients and other health providers to whom we refer receive an accurate and current medicines list.

► D. Our clinical team can demonstrate how we ensure that medicines (including samples and medical consumables) are acquired, stored, administered, supplied and disposed of in accordance with manufacturers’ directions and jurisdictional requirements.


Key points

  • Patients need to understand the purpose and importance of medicines, to assist them to comply with a recommended treatment plan
  • General practitioners need access to current information on medicines to enable best practice prescribing
  • Patients need accurate and current medication lists
  • Referral documentation should include accurate and current medication lists
  • Practices need to ensure that medicines (including samples and medical consumables) are not used beyond their expiry dates
  • Practices must comply with jurisdictional requirements on Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines.

Medication purpose, options, benefits, risks

Patients need to understand the rationale for taking medications, and the benefits and risks associated with particular medicines. This will assist patients to make informed decisions regarding their treatment and may also assist in improving compliance with the recommended treatment plan.

Information resources for consumers

Community pharmacists can assist in providing a comprehensive review of a patient’s medicines and feedback to the GP, either through an in-pharmacy Medicines Use Review or an in-depth Home Medicines Review.

Using and reviewing best practice treatment

The use of Therapeutic Guidelines is now considered standard practice. Therapeutic Guidelines are available at

Relevant therapeutic guidelines available at this website to support best practice prescribing include:

  • analgesic guidelines
  • antibiotic guidelines
  • cardiovascular guidelines
  • dermatology guidelines
  • respiratory guidelines.

Particular care needs to be taken with soundalike or lookalike medicines, particularly when using ‘drop down’ boxes in electronic prescribing programs.

Ensuring medicines lists are accurate and current

General practitioners need to regularly review the list of a patient’s current medications to ensure the list is up-to-date and does not lead to errors when prescribing or referring.14 Single use medications, including antibiotics, should be removed from patients’ records when they are no longer required.

Reviewing a medicines list with a patient15 also provides an opportunity for the GP to assess the patient’s compliance with a medication regime to identify the need for any further education/support. Many GPs routinely perform this task prior to prescribing or changing treatment. It is recommended that GPs clarify a patient’s current medicines list and known allergies at every patient contact.

Patients also need to be provided with a new medicines list when their medicines are changed. This is particularly important when multiple medicines are being taken.16 In assessing this indicator the ‘common sense rule’ needs to be applied: a medicines list may not need to be provided for antibiotics or contraceptive pills.

General practitioners need to be aware of the use of complementary medicines and the potential for side effects and drug interactions with conventional medicines. This should be noted on letters of referral including those for hospital admissions. In summary, it is useful to include all medicines (prescription and nonprescription medicines and complementary healthcare products, if known) on the medication list.

Following the manufacturer’s directions

To ensure the safe use of medicines, vaccines and other healthcare products, practices need to make sure they do not use perishable materials beyond their expiry dates. It is also important to ensure that medicines, vaccines and other healthcare products are stored appropriately, including being secured where appropriate.

It is useful to appoint a designated person to take primary responsibility for the proper storage and security of medicines, vaccines and other healthcare products.

Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines

The acquisition, use, storage and disposal of Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines are subject to jurisdictional legislative requirements.

For information on jurisdictional requirements refer to the drugs and poisons branch of the relevant jurisdiction:

Australian Capital Territory
Pharmaceutical Services, ACT Health
Telephone: 02 6205 1700 Fax: 02 6205 0997

Northern Territory
Poisons Control, Department of Health & Families
Telephone: 08 8922 7341 Fax: 08 8922 7200

New South Wales
Pharmaceutical Services Branch NSW Health
Telephone: 02 9879 3214 Fax: 02 9859 5165

Drugs and Poisons Policy and Regulation, Environmental Health Unit, Queensland Health
Telephone: 07 3328 9310 Fax: 07 3328 9354

South Australia
Pharmaceutical Services and Strategy, Department of Health
Telephone: 08 8204 1942 Fax: 08 8226 9837

Tasmania Pharmaceutical Services Branch, Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania
Telephone: 03 6233 2064 Fax: 03 6233 3904

Drugs and Poisons Regulation Group, Department of Health
Telephone: 1300 364 545 Fax: 03 9096 9168

Western Australia
Pharmaceutical Services Branch, Disaster Managements, Regulation and Planning Directorate, Department of Health, Western Australia
Telephone: 08 9222 6883 Fax: 08 9222 2463

Other useful resources


  1. Miller G, Britt H, Valenti L. Adverse drug events in general practice patients in Australia. Med J Aus 2006;184(7):321–4.
  2. Sorensen L, Stokes JA, Purdie DM, et al. Medication reviews in the community: results of a randomized, controlled effectiveness trial. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2004;58:648–64.
  3. Easton K, Morgan T, Williamson M. Medication safety in the community: a review of the literature. Sydney: National Prescribing Service, 2008.
Standard 5.3 Clinical support processes

Our practice has working processes that support safety and the quality of clinical care.

Overview of Standard 5.3

This Standard is about your health service having the key requirements to support the safety and quality of clinical care for its patients, staff and the community. This requires policies and practices that govern how your health service provides for:

  • the safe and quality use of medicines by patients
  • potent vaccines maintained through an effective cold chain management system
  • the management of healthcare-associated infections through a documented infection-control policy that outlines infection-control processes.

These clinical support processes contribute to the broader risk-management systems that your health service has in place.

Search Standards
Search Interpretive guide