Laboratory Capability Audit, Department of Health

Project Info


  • Australian Government Department of Health

Client Type

  • Commonwealth department

Financial Year

  • 2016-17

Health Area

  • Public Health

Services Provided

  • Evaluation
  • Health informatics
  • Health program development
  • Health program evaluations


  • National

Rapid and accurate laboratory diagnosis of infectious agents is integral to Australia’s communicable disease control efforts. The Department of Health sought to examine the existing health emergency response capability and capacity of Australia’s public health laboratory arrangements. To facilitate this, the Department engaged HMA to

“undertake a laboratory capability audit, mapping and scoping project.”

The project will aid the implementation of the National Communicable Disease Control Framework and contribute to better surveillance and public health laboratory testing.

The objectives of the project were to:

  • assess the capability and readiness of Australian public health laboratories to detect, identify, epidemiologically characterise and conduct additional testing on communicable diseases of public health importance
  • identify possible opportunities to improve national responsiveness to communicable diseases
  • map Australia’s current laboratory network, and
  • examine how information is shared and communicated across national and jurisdictional laboratory networks.

HMA undertook the project in five stages, described below:

  • Project set-up: A detailed project plan was agreed with the Department.
  • Scoping and data collection design: HMA reviewed relevant documentation and undertook preliminary consultations with key stakeholders to assist in the development of a capability survey, consultation questions and understanding the mapping requirements.
  • Quantitative and qualitative data collection: HMA distributed the online capability survey to Reference Laboratories, other Public Health Laboratory Network laboratories and pathology departments. Following the survey, HMA conducted national consultations with stakeholders and performed a desktop review of international networks.
  • Analysis, synthesis and mapping: Findings from the capability survey, consultations and desktop review collected in Stages 2 and 3 were analysed. In addition, HMA identified options for improved communication and information sharing between laboratories; HMA compiled these findings in a working paper.
  • Final report development: HMA prepared a final report.

The project commenced in February 2016 and was completed August 2016.