Aug 27, 2019

Too soon to assess providers’ readiness for new standards

The head of the aged care quality regulator has said it’s too soon to tell how well providers are adapting to the new quality standards, but she said some providers are “kicking goals” while others are “less mature in their understanding”.

Commissioner of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, Janet Anderson, has told those at the Criterion Quality in Aged Care Conference the agency has been busy during the changing over to the new standards.

Since the new standards have been introduced, the commission has undertaken: 

  • 27 site audits, 
  • 161 assessment contacts for residential services, 
  • 20 assessment contacts for home services, 
  • four quality reviews, and 
  • one review audit.

Too early to assess sector readiness

The assessments have been “educational” and “informative” for the commission, Ms Anderson said, but it’s too early to draw inferences about sector readiness, she said.

“I won’t be drawn on any early results, it’s really too soon to tell,” she said.

Anecdotally it seems readiness has been mixed.

“We have found some very impressive providers who have been working on the new standards for months, and it shows.”

“Other services are less mature in their understanding of the new standards,” Ms Anderson said.

The agency will provide “better informed intelligence” when a greater number of assessments have been completed.

“We want to restore trust and confidence in aged care”

Ms Anderson emphasised the importance of the commission’s work.

“The general level of confidence and trust in the general public about the quality and safety of the services their loved ones are accessing has taken a beating, and we want to restore that trust and confidence.”

“It’s my job and it’s your job,” she told the audience.

Commission and Department of Health to share functions

Ms Anderson said the commission has a number of tools it can use when a standard is not met, and can “tailor” responses depending on the circumstances.

Remedies include a timetable for improvement, varying of the accreditation period, and then, when serious risk is identified and the matter is referred to the Department of Health, sanctions, revocation of accreditation, and, at the top of the pyramid, revocation of approved provider status may apply.

Ms Anderson said this work is currently shared between the commission and the department, but the two bodies are likely to come together next calendar year.

“That is currently spread between the two agencies, but there is work underway to bring that together,” she said.

Differentiated Performance Rating System allows “bragging rights”

Ms Anderson said the commission is working on a Differentiated Performance Rating System that will allow “those that are shining to earn that accolade” which can then be shared in the public domain.

“Performance rating needs to be further consultation,” Ms Anderson said, but she said she hopes it will be introduced next calendar year. 

“We’ve seen it work effectively in a number of other countries, such as the UK, the US, and New Zealand.”

“I think it’s a very valuable regulatory tool and it gives bragging rights, in a way we don’t have now.”

CCTV cameras in aged care

Ms Anderson was asked about the use of CCTV cameras in aged care.

“We’re watching (the debate) with interest,” she said. 

“My personal view is, if a family installs CCTV covertly, then the best they can hope for is to catch someone out, rather than to prevent something. And that troubles me.”

“I would have thought a better approach would be to have the conversation with the provider,” Ms Anderson said.

“I have an uneasiness about cameras because I think it’s such an invasion of privacy.

“To assume it’s okay for residents makes me uncomfortable,” Ms Anderson said.

Other projects

Ms Anderson said the commission is also “working hard” on Serious Incident Reporting, which is eventually likely to consume mandatory reporting.

The commission is also working on developing provider access to education materials and best practice models for engaging consumers.

“I don’t need a full suite of clinically qualified assessors”

When asked if her assessment staff has the appropriate clinical training, Ms Anderson defended her team.

“I don’t need a full suite of clinically qualified assessors. In fact, I am blessed to have a diverse range of assessors, some of whom have clinical qualifications and some who don’t. Some of my best assessors are those who come from other regulatory environments. 

“But I do look to ensure all my teams have someone with clinical qualifications on their team, or have ready access to can provide advice.”

Older Australians driving force of commission’s work

Ms Anderson said the commission must also be held to account for its work, and encouraged anyone who has concerns to contact the commission.

“We all share the same goal in this room, whether you’re a provider or a consumer or you’re part of a regulatory body. 

“We’re all wanting to achieve the best outcomes for older Asutralians, and particularly in my case, older Australians in residential aged care. It’s time to remind ourselves that they are the animating force to what we do.”

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