30 September 2016

Clinical handover

What is clinical handover?

Clinical handover is:

"...the 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

Failure in clinical handover is a major source of preventable patient harm.

For more information see Recognising and responding to clinical deterioration.

Clinical handover policy

The OD 0484/14 Clinical Handover Policy (external site) was launched in November 2012 and  was reviewed and updated in November 2013.

The policy is intended for use by all clinicians working within WA Health and services funded by WA Health.

It aims to ensure that handovers are conducted where required and that all handovers initiated by WA health staff are:

  • safe
  • appropriate
  • evidence-based.

Read a summary of the principles governing the Clinical Handover Policy (PDF 272KB).

Clinical Handover Symposium – November 2012

These presentations are from the Clinical Handover Symposium, co-hosted by the Australian Medical Association and the Office of Safety and Quality in Healthcare.

video of the presentations (external site) is also available on the AMA WA website.


As a routine process, clinical handover can be improved by the use of tools and techniques that standardise the process, while leaving room for situational variation.

Within WA Health, the standardised structure for all clinical handovers is iSoBAR2:

  • Identify
  • Situation
  • Observations
  • Background
  • Agree to a plan
  • Readback

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (external site) has a number of iSoBAR tools available on their website. 


  • 1National Patient Safety Agency, National Health Service. Safe handover: safe patients. 
  • 2Porteous JM, Stewart-Wynne EG, Connolly M, Crommelin PF. iSoBAR- A concept and handover checklist: the National Clinical Handover Initiative. Med J Aust. Jun 1 2009;190(11 Suppl):S152-6

More information

Quality Improvement and Change Management Unit
Address: 189 Royal Street, East Perth
Phone: 9222 4080
Email: qicm@health.wa.gov.au

Last reviewed: 30-09-2016
Produced by

Quality Improvement and Change Management Unit