Sep 15, 2020

Report finds new standards have not benefitted aged care sector

A report on the impacts of the new Aged Care Quality Standards has highlighted additional pressure the Standards have put on aged care workers and has demanded further assessment of the program in the future.

It’s been one year since the aged care industry introduced their new Aged Care Quality Standards, designed to improve conditions in aged care and address some of the problems in the sector.

In early July, CompliSpace conducted a survey to find out more about the impacts of the new Standards.

Impact on aged care staff workload 

The new Standards have led to significant changes in most aged care homes, according to the report. Of the providers surveyed, 88% said that they have had to make changes to their policies and procedures; 76% have had to alter their staff training; and 83% have had to change their methods for collecting and reporting on data.

Most survey respondents were from smaller aged care homes, which often lack the resourcing for extensive administration and paperwork.

The report found that, after the introduction of the new Standards, 92% of survey respondents experienced an increase in their workload.

‘Additional reporting and documentation – once again that’s time away from our core business of care of the frail elderly,’ one respondent said.

Another said, ‘Adding many additional hours to the workload, taking time away from attending to residents and providing direct care’.

According to the report, the sentiment that the administrative tasks were negatively impacting the centres’ ability to focus on providing care was common.

‘The workload increased fourfold – we have had to use so many more staff and resources to implement these in a situation where the facility is already struggling with finances,’ said another respondent.

The level of administration and documentation required to comply with the new Standards has been daunting for a lot of aged care workers.

A respondent noted, ‘Though we agree with the overall content of the standards, providing enough documented evidence is difficult.’ Another said, ‘Paper, paper, paper. No time for resident care’.

As would be expected, this increased workload has also resulted in increased stress amongst aged care workers. 78% reported that they have noticed an increase in stress since the introduction of the new Standards.

Challenges posed by the new Standards

As well as putting pressure on staff of aged care homes in terms of increased workload and work-related stress, the new Aged Care Quality Standards have posed other challenges to workers.

In particular was the difficulty of balancing ‘dignity of risk’ against their duty of care to residents. The new Standards require aged care providers to ensure that ‘each consumer is supported to take risks to enable them to live the best life they can.’ This is what is known as ‘dignity of risk’.

However, many aged care workers have experienced difficulty in finding the balance between keeping residents safe and providing this ‘dignity of risk’. 66% cited this as their main challenge or concern with the new Standards.

Another area of concern related to staff, specifically the challenges of providing the training and competency assessments required under the new Standards. 73% of survey respondents said this was a challenge.

Recommendations

Overall CompliSpace does not believe the new Standards have been beneficial to the industry, instead negatively impacting aged care workers which has a flow on effect of shrinking the skilled workforce.

Under the new Aged Care Quality Standards staff retention is at risk, the administrative burden of the system could be undermining quality of care, and there is inadequate funding to support the Standards.

The report contends that the program was implemented too quickly. ‘There was never a pilot program to test the Aged Care Quality Standards – they went immediately from final conception to implementation across the entire industry.’ This, it says, is largely to blame for its failures.

The lack of consistent funding is also a major problem. Aged care homes simply do not have the resources to adhere to the new, vastly more complex criteria.

‘Since the close of the Quality Care Fund, no additional targeted funding has been provided to aged care providers to help them operate under the Aged Care Quality Standards,’ the report notes. Although aged care homes are now receiving some financial support due to COVID-19, much more is needed to address underlying issues.

The report concludes by noting that the government has not comprehensively assessed the impact of the new Standards. ‘While this survey report shines some light on the issue, it is limited in its scope and much more work needs to be done,’ it says.

Below is a summary of the report findings, republished with permission from CompliSpace

Aged Care Impact Report - One Year On Aged Care Impact Report - One Year On 2

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  1. There needs to be a change in Assessment of Aged care providers with more unannounced checks to safeguard residents and gain better insight to support staff appropriately so any issues can be dealt with at the start of pandemics or outbreaks of gastro or flu etc’ rather than a catchup job leading to similar as current situations. This has been needed through successive governments and Morrison does not seem to be willing to change current standards or assessment arrangements yet again. Understaffing is also a concern given most carers need to be in 2 places at once doing paperwork instead of caring for clients. Maybe the admin staff employed should be doing more. Inhome care providers also need to increase asssessments of both clients and the staff they employ as there will be increased dearhs or injuries to both staff and clients if this is mot improved. I have 30 years experience in the field of care including disabilities Things need to change NOW

    1. More unannounced visits won’t help if the people assessing are clueless. We had an unannounced, which we passed with flying colours, but one of the recommendations they made was to cut the Cert IV medication nurses & put that load back onto the RN. We ignored the recommendation because we do not need the RNs staging a mass walk out over losing their med nurses. They made a few other recommendations that were just not smart which made me wonder what qualifications they have.

  2. Change is often not easy.
    The emphasis of quality assessment needed to change and the clear focus of these new standards on the dignity and choices of aged care recipients is the best thing that has happened in a long time.
    I have been a dietitian in aged care for decades. I know it’s not always easy for staff and its certainly not a natural fit for those of us (including me!) who have been used to ‘recommending’ and ‘arranging for’ what I think an aged care resident ‘needs’. I have to stop and think if I really have given my recommendations and advice in a language and manner that has encouraged the individual receiving care to make an informed choice that supports their own preferences – but that is what should happen and what I should have been doing. I am sad to say I have not always achieved that, but I am grateful for these standards that have seen me change my focus. I know it is better for my clients.
    I feel for aged care staff because they are often overstretched, but if that is the case, these standards should NOT take the blame! The fault lies with decades of inadequate funding (maybe combined with lack of certainty that those taxpayer dollars go to care; but that is another topic entirely) that has driven casualisation and reduction of the workforce and more so that individuals and organisations are overstretched. Of course, staff are concerned about anything that they feel reduces their time to provide direct care. I’m concerned that resources are often said to be inadequate to properly fund the nutritional care and quality food I believe needs to be provided too.
    But the answer is providing aged care with the resources that allow staff to do that, not to find ways to criticise the one big change that really focuses on the needs of the people aged care is there to serve – our elders.

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