Jul 05, 2023

New food complaints hotline on the menu for July

Food quality and malnutrition have been major concerns for the aged care industry. [Source: Shutterstock]

The highly anticipated complaints hotline for aged care food and nutrition issues will be launched towards the end of July as the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission remains on track to meet key funding commitments. 

Key points:

  • The hotline was announced in May as a tool to help tackle aged care’s ‘silent faceless abuser’ – malnutrition
  • The Commission plans to launch the hotline in late July
  • Research has revealed up to 68% of residents are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition
  • Aged care workers, care recipients/consumers, advocates and representatives will be able to call to file complaints and source help from expert dietitians

The Commission first signalled its intent to improve food and nutrition in July 2021 when it launched its Food, Dining and Nutrition campaign to drive improvements across the sector. It has allowed them to work closely with providers, offering advice and support so they can improve choice and the dining experience for consumers – mainly those living in residential aged care. 

Food quality in aged care has been a point of contention for some time as slim budgets have resulted in meals with poor nutritional value and countless mainstream media articles ranking provider performance. However, many providers have worked hard to elevate meals by recruiting dietitians and chefs or investing in new menus for their residents.

Despite those investments, concerns about substandard meals and malnutrition are still common in aged care. It’s why an additional $7.7 million over two years has been earmarked for the expansion of the campaign, which includes the establishment of the incoming complaints hotline staffed by a new Food, Nutrition and Dining Advisory Support Unit.

“This will include engaging dietitians to provide advice, and build provider capability and regulatory officer expertise; deploying 720 targeted spot-checks (over two years); and raising awareness of aged care residents’ nutritional needs and expectations,”  Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson, said.

“A key component of this program is the establishment of a “hotline” for food complaints which will give callers access to expert dietitians. Calls from approved providers, consumers, representatives and others will be triaged based on the nature and level of risk to older people. Some providers may be linked with opportunities for support and education programs delivered by accredited practising dietitians.”

As mentioned by Ms Anderson, the Commission is also ramping up the number of food, dining and nutrition spot checks to assess current standards and potentially catch out providers serving low-quality meals. 

Spot checks performed on providers deemed the highest risk services (approximately 10% of spot checks) will also feature accompanying dietitians to provide on-site assessments and feedback.

“Since July 2021, the Commission has conducted over 75 food, dining and nutrition spot checks at residential aged care services around the country, as part of our ongoing work with the Department of Health and Aged Care to improve food, dining and nutrition in aged care.,” Ms Anderson explained.

“The selection of residential services that will undergo a food, dining and nutrition spot check is informed by information that the Commission has about services, such as complaints, quality indicator data, resident experience survey data, and serious incident notifications.”

“Where we identify concerns about some aspect of a provider’s food services, we draw this to their attention with the expectation that the issues will be addressed in a timely manner. Actions taken by a service [provider] to remedy any identified shortcomings in their food services can be assessed by the Commission at any time.”

Any aged care workers, consumers or advocates currently concerned about food, dining and nutrition are encouraged to contact the Commission at 1800 951 822 or www.agedcarequality.gov.au. Details regarding the food complaints hotline will be released when it’s ready to be launched.

In addition, the Commission has also published factsheets on food, dining and nutrition to support providers to meet their obligations.

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  1. I wonders why food and nutrition is not a compliance issue in a star rating system.
    The star rating system is not fit for purpose.

    The ACQSC. Has a culture and attitude problem. A Provider of aged care residential nursing homes should be required to employ regular staff carers nurses dietitians and cooks/chefs.

    Instead more money and staff will be employed by ACQSC what a waste of money that should be directed to community based providers and their aged care hands on workers

    Just have to look at the webinars Janet Anderson spends so much time doing has anyone bothered to evaluate where this is helpful for community aged care nursing homes. Who would benefit greatly to have a hotline to call for information and assistanc

    What a waste of time. While aged care recipients are needing assistance just to eat!


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