Medication Safety programme update

25 Jun 2014 | Medication Safety

The Commission is planning a three-year medication safety improvement programme on high-risk medicines across primary and secondary care settings, with an initial focus on reducing harm from opioids (eg, morphine and oxycodone) in secondary care. We want to work closely with the sector as partners in this important initiative.

High-risk medicines are those that have particular characteristics which mean errors in their use can cause serious harm. Harms from medicines occur in all DHBs, can be serious and many are preventable. Recent work in New Zealand has shown that opioids are the medicine class most commonly implicated, with both serious harm (respiratory depression/arrest) and moderate harm (over-sedation, nausea, constipation, and confusion).

As part of this three-year programme, there are three related activities that we would like to bring to your attention.

Campaign – October 2014 to March 2015

The medication safety topic for the Open for better care campaign will be high-risk medicines. It will provide a national focus on high-risk medicines. It will profile activities and resources related to:

  1. the case for change
  2. identifying, mitigating and preventing medication errors and harm
  3. partnering with patients and families
  4. the safe use of opioids.

National Medication Safety Workshop – October 2014

The Commission will be hosting a national workshop in Wellington. This workshop will provide an opportunity to hear about the latest developments in medication safety, from both national and international perspectives, the work currently being carried out on high-risk medicines in New Zealand, and the plans for the campaign and safe use of opioids collaborative.

Safe use of opioids collaborative – October 2014 to May 2016

Coinciding with the campaign, the Commission will be partnering with DHB regional and local teams in implementing a national breakthrough collaborative on the safe use of opioids in DHB hospitals. This will run for a period of 18 months and is based on the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s model for improvement. It will involve three national learning sessions, supporting local DHB action periods where interventions are tested.

The goal of the collaborative will be to reduce harm from opioids in DHB hospitals, and to build capability in medication safety and quality improvement.

The intention is to have at least one team from each DHB participating in the collaborative, with the collaborative beginning in October/November 2014. A plan for communicating developments in this area is currently underway, and members of our medication safety team will shortly be engaging with each DHB. If there are any queries, in the first instance please make contact with Carmela Petagna, Senior Portfolio Manager at the Commission (

Medication Safety – recruiting for new positions

The Commission is currently recruiting for a number of roles across its quality improvement programmes and detailed position descriptions can be found on the Commission’s website. Three of the roles (a collaborative clinical lead, an improvement advisor and a collaborative project manager) will have an initial focus on the successful development and implementation of the medication safety breakthrough collaborative. Details on each of these roles can be found at

Last updated 26/06/2014