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New Serious Incident Report Scheme (SIRS) comes into effect in April

The Federal Government intends to establish a new Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) into the aged care sector from 1 April 2021, which further expands on the current compulsory reporting requirements of residential aged care facilities.

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The purpose of the new Serious Incident Report Scheme (SIRS) is to provide tougher reporting safeguards for consumers in aged care. [Source: iStock]

Government will be debating the proposed bill in February, aiming to approve the bill for April implementation, which includes fines for facilities if they target staff who report abuse to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The purpose of SIRS is to provide tougher reporting safeguards for consumers, reduce the risk of abuse and neglect on people in aged care, provide residents with quicker support access, and reduce the likelihood of serious incidents occurring again.

SIRS management will be the responsibility of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to regulate.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson PSM, says, "The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission) will be responsible for administering the new scheme, and is being given additional resources for this purpose.

"Under existing arrangements, aged care providers are required to report suspicions or allegations of unreasonable use of force or unlawful sexual contact with an aged care resident (with some exceptions).  

"The SIRS will require providers to report a broader range of incidents to the Commission, and to have effective systems and processes in place to minimise and manage these incidents."

The new regulation means that resident-on-resident abuse or violence will be required to be reported, even if an involved resident has a cognitive or mental impairment, like dementia.

Reportable incidents under this new scheme include neglect, psychology and emotional abuse, and inappropriate use of physical or chemical restraints.

Aged care providers and their staff will need to take action when an "alleged, suspected, or witness incident" takes places, including:

  • Identification and immediate internal reporting of the allegation, suspicion, or witnessed incident.

  • Action to remove the consumer, or consumers, from harm, and reduce or address the impact on any consumer, or consumers.

  • Documenting the incident

  • Further investigation process if necessary

  • Reporting to relevant authorities, the police and the Commission, within the allocated time frames.

Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, announced that the Government was bringing forward the introduction of SIRS on the day the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released its COVID-19 and aged care report in October 2020.

In December, he stated that the new SIRS legislation will strengthen the Commission's enforcement powers with 'civil penalties, infringement notices, enforceable undertakings, and injunctions across a range of provider responsibilities'.

The SIRS will complement and sit alongside the Aged Care Quality Standards and the Charter of Aged Care Rights.

Commissioner Anderson recommends all aged care providers review and strengthen their existing incident management system before the new scheme is implemented.

"The objective of SIRS is to strengthen aged care providers’ capability to minimise the risk of serious incidents occurring, and to respond promptly and effectively if they do," explains Commissioner Anderson.

"The Commission will use the reports it receives to identify key risks in residential aged care and to reflect this information back to the aged care sector [so] that providers can learn from it and improve the quality and safety of their services.  

"The Commission will also use the SIRS reports as intelligence to inform our regulatory decisions and actions in relation to particular providers."

For more information about the Serious Incident Report Scheme (SIRS), head to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission's website.

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