The following questions and answers are provided as supplementary to the department’s guide for Victorian hospitals – Anaphylaxis notifications under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.
Will general practitioners be required to notify anaphylaxis presentations to the department?
No. The requirement to notify applies only to presentations for anaphylaxis treatment at a Victorian hospital (defined as an anaphylaxis reporting body in the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008). The vast majority of anaphylaxis patients who seek treatment in Victoria present to a hospital emergency department either directly or via ambulance. Anaphylaxis is regarded as a medical emergency, requiring acute emergency treatment and observation in hospital, as symptoms can recur hours after the initial reaction. Receiving notifications from treating hospitals is therefore an effective means of collecting anaphylaxis notifications in Victoria.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) action plan for members of the public with anaphylaxis, directs people with anaphylaxis symptoms to administer their epi-pen and to be transported to hospital immediately for further treatment, management and observation. More information can be found on the ASCIA .
What if a notification about an anaphylaxis presentation needs to be referred to another agency?
If the Secretary considers that it is in the public interest to do so, the Secretary may provide information about anaphylaxis cases to a person or class of person prescribed in Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations.
The Secretary would have a clear legal authority to provide important information to third parties specified in regulations – for example, to other agencies that have a responsibility for overseeing data or responding to aspects of a case of anaphylaxis in certain circumstances – where the Secretary considers that disclosure to be in the public interest.
Such disclosure would not be a breach of privacy laws.
Why is there no offence for failing to comply with the notification requirements?
No penalty under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act is currently proposed for a failure by the hospital to report an anaphylaxis presentation to the department. Consistent with the treatment of obligations for public hospitals under the Health Services Act 1988, it is not considered appropriate or necessary to impose a penalty on a hospital or individual for a failure to notify.
Compliance by hospitals is expected to be high, given hospital staff will wish to ensure no further harm occurs to others.
If any systemic, ongoing failures to notify were to occur, alternative mechanisms will be considered, such as performance discussions with the relevant health service. If necessary, the government would review the appropriateness of the proposed regulatory approach.
How will information be collected and stored to protect patient privacy?
Patient-level information, such as names, addresses and dates of birth, is routinely collected by the department. For example, medical practitioners are required to notify the department of cases with certain notifiable conditions, such as diseases.
Storage of such information is subject to the requirements of the Health Records Act 2001. This Act establishes a legal framework for protecting the privacy of individuals’ health information that is held in the public and private sector. Any patient-level information obtained by the department as part of notification of anaphylaxis presentations would also be subject to these requirements.
In addition, the Secretary may provide the information to persons specified in regulations, if the Secretary considers that it is in the public interest to do so. Without some level of patient information it would not be possible for the department to appropriately investigate the potential causes of a case of anaphylaxis. This would include following up on incidents to ensure a food recall occurs where the consumption of an incorrectly labelled food has resulted in a case of anaphylaxis.
Aren’t cases of anaphylaxis already reported by hospitals to the department?
The department receives two types of data in relation to anaphylaxis from hospitals. However, this data is not suitable for the purposes of the mandatory notification scheme. This is because Victorian public hospitals data is de-identified, and submitted to the department up to ten weeks after the patient is discharged. Therefore, this reporting mechanism does not enable a timely response to public health issues, such as responding to undeclared allergens in packaged food.
Aren’t there already mandatory reporting requirements where a food causes illness, injury or death under Australian consumer law?
Yes. In 2010 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) introduced a requirement under Australian consumer law that makes it mandatory for product suppliers including suppliers of food products to report any product-related death, serious injury or serious illness to the ACCC.
This mandatory reporting scheme does include anaphylaxis. However, the comprehensiveness of this information varies, as the scheme relies on the supplier being notified of the death, serious injury or serious illness, and in many cases this may not occur.
For more information on the ACCC’s mandatory reporting system, please go to its Product Safety website.
Who was consulted about the design of the anaphylaxis notification scheme?
Between May and August 2017 the Victorian Government consulted with a range of key stakeholders to develop the amendment to the Act. This included public and private health services and hospitals, Ambulance Victoria, St John Ambulance, specialist colleges, clinical networks and professional bodies with a focus on anaphylaxis and allergies. More consultation was undertaken with key stakeholders in late 2017 and early 2018 in relation to the development of the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations that prescribe the requirements of notification, as well as the development of guidance material for hospital, which is available to download on the Anaphylaxis notification page on Health.vic.
Updates and information for stakeholders will continue to be published on this website as they become available.
If you have any more questions, please email them to the Anaphylaxis Notifications Inbox (details on this page) and we will get back to you as soon as possible.. Your questions and comments will help to inform future communication with anaphylaxis reporting bodies.