Clinical handover

Clinical handover is the effective "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 on a temporary or permanent basis" [1].

Healthcare 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 to ensure patient safety.

The NSW Health Policy Clinical Handover (PD2019_020) recognises the key principles for safe and effective clinical handover of patient/family/carer involvement, leadership, handover participants, handover time, handover place, handover process and documentation.

Patient delivered handover

Involving patients in handover is central to the NSW Clinical Handover policy.

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Communicating for Safety Standard

This standard of the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (NSQHSS) describes systems and strategies for effective clinical communication, whenever accountability and responsibility for a patient's care is transferred. This is to ensure there is a timely, relevant and structured clinical handover that supports safe patient care, including:

  • Governance and leadership for the implementation of effective clinical handover systems
  • Clinical handover processes that are documented and structured
  • Patient and carer involvement that is included in these structured processes.

The Clinical Excellence Commission has created a link to a resource for clinicians to use when they assess their units against the NSQHSS standards. Here, clinicians will find essential criteria, actions and resources for each of the standards.


[1] Haikerwal, Dobb, Ahmed, 2006, Safe Handover: Safe Patients - Guidance on Clinical Handover for Clinicians and Managers, Australian Medical Association Limited.