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Quest for quality in aged care results in new Quality and Safety Commission

Improving the quality of and confidence in the nation’s aged care sector, the Federal Government has today announced a number of “significant reforms”, including the introduction of a new national independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

A number of “significant reforms” in aged care have been announced (Source: Shutterstock)
A number of “significant reforms” in aged care have been announced (Source: Shutterstock)

The Commission, which will bring together the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and the aged care regulatory functions of the Department of Health, has been established in response to the Carnell-Patterson review onto failures at South Australia’s Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service.

Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt, who announced the new reforms, says the Review found that the current aged care regulatory framework is fragmented and does not adequately provide the assurance the community expects, adding that these changes will ensure Australians in the aged care system are better cared for, through raising the quality benchmarks that homes must meet.

“The unified new Commission will be a responsive, one-stop shop to prevent failures, highlight quality concerns and have them quickly rectified,” he explains.

“This builds on the Government’s recent introduction of unannounced re-accreditation audits across every one of Australia’s residential aged care facilities.

“Importantly, the new Commission will give senior Australians and their loved ones a single point of contact when they need help in dealing with claims of sub-standard care.

“Risks to seniors Australians will be investigated promptly and care failures identified faster.”

As well as the forming of the new Commission, the Minister’s additional reforms include:

  • Developing options, in consultation with the aged care sector, for a Serious Incident Response Scheme to ensure the right systems are in place to identify an incident and prevent it from occurring again

  • A performance rating against quality standards

  • A user-friendly provider comparison tool on the My Aged Care website

Aged care peak body, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) has welcomed the reforms and says the organisation will work constructively with the Federal Government following the announcement of a single Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission as part of a focus on strengthening and supporting the provision of quality aged care for older Australians.

ACSA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pat Sparrow says the aged care industry is one with a strong commitment to quality care and continuous improvement, and welcomes the steps taken by the Government to strengthen aged care regulation and compliance for the benefit of older Australians and their families.

“The streamlining of the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner into a single agency should improve the regulatory system that all Australians, and aged care providers, rely on,” Ms Sparrow explains.

“ACSA and its members will work with the government to ensure that the performance rating system and comparison tool add value to the quality system.

“These tools must be fair and accurate for providers while giving older people and their families clear and meaningful information about aged care.”

Fellow aged care industry peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) has also welcomed the reforms with CEO Sean Rooney saying quality in the aged care system is non-negotiable.

"Australia has a good aged care system and a good system can always do better," he says.

"It is in this context that our industry supports initiatives that contribute to continuous improvement in the quality of care, support, services and accommodation provided to older Australians.

"We all want a high quality aged care system, a system that assures the community of the safety, wellbeing and quality of life for older Australians receiving care.

"Our industry expects this, and all Australians will settle for nothing less."

Minister Wyatt says that the new integrated agency will give the more than 1.3 million senior Australians in Commonwealth aged care greater confidence in the regulation of care, and also makes note that many providers do give high quality care to its residents.

“Ensuring senior Australians and their families have clear, concise information when choosing aged care options is also critical,” he says.

“We recognise that the vast majority of providers give consistent, quality care to their residents.

“But as we have seen, there can be failures.

“We must ensure that disasters like Oakden are never repeated.”

The new Commission will start from 1 January 2019.

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