The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety put out their final report on 1 March 2021. The Commission findings resolved that Australia’s aged care system is displaying signs of substandard care . The Commission found that the system is unsustainable as well as unacceptable in its current form and “is not worthy of our nation”. The Commissioners are looking for transformational reform to ensure the promotion and protection of the aged who  need support and care. 

The Background

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was established on 8 October 2018. The Commissioners held 23 hearings, 641 witnesses, reviewed 10,574 public submissions and created 38 reports and research publications, over 2 1/2 years.

The Commission inquired about, “The quality of aged care services provided to Australians,the extent to which those services meet the needs of the people accessing them and the extent of substandard care being provided.” This included mistreatment, all forms of abuse, the causes of any systemic failures and any actions that should be taken in response.

Key Findings

While the Commissioners are well aware there are many highly qualified and dedicated people working in aged care, the Final Report describes a myriad of problems, including:

  • a system difficult to access and navigate;
  • inappropriate use of restrictive practices;
  • an understaffed system, with an underpaid and under trained workforce resulting in people not consistently receiving the health care they require;
  • systemic problems, including inadequate funding, variable provider governance and behaviour and an absence of system leadership and governance;
  • the failure of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner to exercise strong and effective regulation; and
  • a lack of clarity regarding the responsibility of aged care providers and health care providers to deliver health care for people in aged care.

Key Recommendations

The key recommendations of the Commissioners are:

  • to replace the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) with a new Act coming into force no later than 1 July 2023;
  • to establish a new regulatory body, either an independent statutory body or a new Government department led by a senior member of Cabinet;
  • to impose a general duty on approved providers to ensure the quality and safety of its aged care services so far as is reasonable;
  • to ensure the delivery of accessible, safe and high-quality age care services, including by:
  • approving home care packages within one month from the date of a person’s assessment and clearing the waitlist by the end of 2021;
  • appointing a new senior leader to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to reduce the use of chemical and physical restraints;
  • putting the power to prescribe antipsychotic drug in the hands of a psychiatrist or a geriatrician, to restrict their use in residential aged care;
  • establishing a national registration scheme for the personal care workforce, with key features including mandatory minimum qualifications, ongoing training, minimum levels of English language proficiency, criminal history screening and a code of conduct;
  • using indicators to measure service quality, benchmarking for continuous improvement and a star rating system for comparing the performance of providers; and
  • introducing new regulatory powers to impose civil penalties, award compensation, accept an enforceable undertaking, impose an infringement notice, ban individuals from providing services, limit a provider’s ability to expand, and appoint an external manager to a provider;
  • improving data collection and availability 

Stay Informed on Changes in the Aged Care Sector

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