The Turnbull Government has announced significant reforms that aim to give senior Australians and their families confidence they will be properly cared for. A new national independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will also be established to increase transparency through a publicly available rating against quality standards.
The establishment of the Commission is in response to the Carnell-Paterson review into failures at South Australian’s Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service. The Review, commissioned by the Turnbull Government, found the current aged care regulatory framework is fragmented and does not adequately provide the assurance the community expects.
“The unified new Commission will be a responsive, one-stop shop to prevent failures, highlight quality concerns and have them quickly rectified,” Minister Wyatt said.
“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 senior Australians will be investigated promptly and care failures identified faster.”
The new Commission will start from 1 January 2019 and will bring together the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and the aged care regulatory functions of the Department of Health.
Additional reforms will 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
Australia’s leading advocacy body for older Australians and aged care consumers, COTA Australia, has welcomed the announcement. COTA Australia Chief Executive Ian Yates said it was “another significant step towards better monitoring and enforcement of quality in Australia’s aged care system, together with the new regime of unannounced visits by quality assessors”.
“These are welcome steps towards rebuilding confidence that older Australians will receive safe and appropriate care,” said Mr Yates, “although government still needs to go further and give consumers direct control over their aged care funding, as recommended by several inquiries and this government’s own aged care advisory body.
“COTA has successfully advocated for new aged care standards that place outcomes for older Australians at the centre of aged care regulation. It is appropriate the new Commission explain in an easy to understand way how individual providers comply with the standards expected of them,” said Mr Yates.
The Government’s announcement also includes that the new Commission will have a Chief Clinical Advisor, who will deal in part with the misuse of physical and chemical restraints; and it will consult with the sector on the introduction of a Serious Incident Response Scheme.
COTA notes the Carnell/Paterson inquiry also includes a recommendation for the appointment of a “Consumer Commissioner” in the new Commission, to develop processes to ensure consumers and families receive full information about their rights and are supported and protected to exercise those rights.
“The atrocities at Oakden were only brought to light thanks to the tenacity and persistence of Oakden family members, demonstrating the importance of having strong consumer voices heard in aged care quality processes,” said Mr Yates, “but we need to make it much easier, indeed normal practice, for consumers and families to be involved – that’s why we need the Consumer Commissioner’s role.
“COTA welcomes the opportunity to engage with the Government and Parliament to ensure the importance of older Australians and their families are legislated into the new Commission’s framework to ensure such voices are never ignored again and fully engaged in ensuring quality care is delivered.”