ACT Government Expands Safewards Model for Safer Hospitals

ACT, Australia

Article: The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government is expanding the rollout of the Safewards model in 2024, ensuring safer hospitals for healthcare workers, patients, and their families. The evidence-based model aims to strengthen collaboration between teams, consumers, carers, and families, reducing potential conflicts and rates of occupational violence and restrictive practices. The initiative has been successfully trialed in four wards across Canberra Health Services and is set to be implemented in a further four medical and mental health units, with plans to continue expanding across public inpatient wards in the coming years.

The Safewards model encourages open communication, positive de-escalation strategies, and preemptive support for patients receiving distressing news. A partnership with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation ACT Branch will enable 12 wards to implement the model by June 2026, supported by an investment of $4.7 million from the ACT Government. Minister Stephen-Smith praised the Safewards rollout as a crucial component of the government’s commitment to supporting nursing and midwifery workforce by providing a safe and nurturing environment for staff to deliver quality care to the Canberra community.

The Next Steps Towards a Safer Culture Strategy builds upon the Nurses and Midwives: Towards a Safer Culture – The First Steps Strategy, launched in 2018, which aimed to decrease occupational violence and improve workplace safety for nurses and midwives. With more than $86 million allocated in the 2024-25 ACT Budget, the government plans to recruit 137 new full-time equivalent nurses and midwives to implement phase two of Mandated Minimum Nurse/Midwife-to-patient ratios, further emphasizing their dedication to better working conditions.

Anne Corney, Assistant Director of Nursing at Canberra Health Services, highlighted the benefits of Safewards, stating that it allows healthcare workers to address patients’ concerns before they escalate and gain a deeper understanding of their lives outside of hospital, making their work more meaningful.