The head of the new quality and safety commission has stressed the importance of a resident-focussed culture within aged care facilities, and has given an update on the commission’s latest work.
At today’s Criterion Quality in Aged Care conference, Janet Anderson, the head of the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, outlined the commission’s four functions: consumer engagement, eduction, complaints, and regulatory.
She said the complaints function is her most “front facing obligation”, and is often the public’s first point of contact with the commission.
“So I must do it well and consistently well,” she said.
If the commission becomes aware of issues, “I am authorised to initiate a resolution process,” she said.
Ms Anderson said she is still recruiting a chief clinical advisor, to help ensure the industry is employing best practice, and help to implement it in a care setting.
Ms Anderson said that additional quality indicators are being considered, and may include falls, fractures, and medication misuse, including chemical restraint.
The current national quality indicators are pressure injuries, use of physical restraints, and unplanned or unexplained weight loss.
Ms Anderson said one of the key priorities of the quality reform process will be how providers self identify problems, if they are pre-emptive in their approach to quality, if they “energetically” commits to improvement strategies, and if they talk with consumers and families about improving care, and working with consumers co-designing care.
“The regulators will be looking closely at the behaviour of the providers,” Ms Anderson said.
She said if they are slow to move, if staff are uncertain about how to improve their work, and if consumers don’t feel engaged it will reflect badly on providers.
“Providers behaviour is material and I can’t stress that strongly enough. I’m not sure if that’s always been the case,” Ms Anderson said.
“When we’re assessing providers we’re not just checking policies and procedures, we also focusing on the quality of the consumer experience,” she said.
“The culture of the organization is either working for them or against them. Culture is key,” Ms Anderson said.
“What do the staff know matters? How are the staff treated when they get it wrong? How does the organisation react when there’ s near miss?” Ms Anderson asked.
“Providers and the commission share the same goals,” she said. “They’re about putting the consumer at the centre. Protecting the consumer’s wellbeing. And optimising their experiences and outcomes.”
“We’re never going to be the provider’s best friend,” she said.
She said the commission will begin to release quarterly data on the number of audits conducted, how often non-compliance was identified, the areas where services are most often non-compliant, the volume of complaints received, and what is most commonly complained about.
The first data released will be for the six months to December 2018.
A serious incident response scheme is under development.
Ms Anderson confirmed that hard copies of all documentation will be provided after a consumer said many consumers have “no intention” of ever going online.
Ms Anderson said 90 per cent of complaints are resolved within 90 days, and that complaint resolution is a staff KPI. She said the process does take time because the commission is careful to ensure “procedural fairness”, so both sides of the story have to be heard.
Ms Anderson was asked about who is able to make complaints to the commission after a member of the audience said the Complaints line would not take a complaint as they were not a relative. Ms Anderson said the commission is “completely agnostic” about who makes a complaint, and that complaints can be made anonymously.
Another member of the audience said representatives often asked for a change in a resident’s care, but without the consent of the resident. When the change was refused, a complaint was often generated, the woman said.