We were engaged by the Commonwealth Department of Health to provide research, writing and editorial advice for the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes.
The Review of National Aged Care Regulatory Processes, led by Kate Carnell AO and Professor Ron Paterson ONZM, was prompted by the Oakden Report, which detailed failures in the quality of care residents received at the Oakden Older Persons Mental Service in South Australia. The original report had been commissioned by the SA Government, following public outrage over what happened to Bob Spriggs at Oakden.
The Carnell / Paterson Review examined why regulatory processes did not adequately identify the systemic and longstanding failures of care at the Makk and McLeay wards documented in the Oakden Report. The Review identified improvements to the regulatory system that will increase the likelihood of immediate detection, and swift remediation by providers.
Hamilton Stone provided extensive research, writing and editorial advice for this important and extensive review. The review had received over 400 submissions. The Reviewers held three forums with consumers and carers and met with over 40 individual stakeholders including regulators, advocacy groups, service providers, peak bodies and experts across the health and aged care systems.
The Report was released on 25 October 2017. You can access it here.
We were pleased to see that Government action on one of the critical recommendations the Review was swift: Minister Wyatt declared immediately that announced accreditation visits to residential aged care homes would be replaced with unannounced audits. See the Minister's press release and watch his 31 October address to the National Press Club.
Hamilton Stone believes unannounced visits will go a long way to help ensure quality standards of care are maintained all the time.
The Government has been continuing to examine the rest of the Report, and we’re excited to note that it has just recently made another announcement in relation to a number of other key recommendations: on 18 April, the Minister announced the establishment of a new national independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. According to the Minister, other reforms flowing from the Report include
- Developing options, in consultation with the aged care sector, for a Serious Incident Response Scheme to ensure the right systems are in place to identify an incident and prevent it from occurring again
- A performance rating against quality standards
- A user-friendly provider comparison tool on the My Aged Care website
See here what the Minister had to say about these changes.
Media coverage and aged care sector response
The Report's release and the government's action on the unannounced audits recommendation received significant national and state media coverage - not surpisingly, particularly in South Australia - and public response to the report, including by the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC, the Guardian, and NewsMail.
The response by the aged care sector to the release of the Report was extensive and varied, with some arguing the report did not go far enough. Peak body, Council of the Ageing (COTA) welcomed the release of the report and its key recommendations, saying that the report contains "bold but realistic recommendations to strengthen and sharpen accreditation and complaints processes." Read here also the reaction from the Aged Care Industry Association (ACIA), Catholic Health Australia, and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA).
The April announcement of the establishment of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission received lots of media coverage, see for example the ABC's story and that of the Guardian., as well as aged care sector media, such as Australian Ageing Agenda. The announcement of the Commission was welcomed by National Seniors Australia, who said that having a single point of contact for the aged care industry was a welcome move for consumers and integration is “necessary to improve the regulatory system”: They were also supportive of the govenrment’s proposal for a performance rating system, a Serious Incident Response Scheme, and a user-friendly comparison tool on the My Aged Care website. Dementia Australia also supports the establishment of the new body, arguing a single commission would benefit people living with dementia, their families and their carers. Providers seem to also generally be supportive: Baptist Care Australia believes that streamlining the agencies “can be a positive starting point for additional reforms to the sector”.
Where to from here?
There are no doubt a raft of further reforms on their way. - both as a result of this Report and the Tune Legislated Review. A number of other reform measures had been announced in December's Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2017-18, including rebalancing the mix of home care packages. The Government also indicated in the Outlook that it will respond to the other recommendations of the Carnell/Paterson Review and the Tune Legislated Review of Aged Care in the 2018–19 Budget, and we will keep a close eye on developments.
The Minister also gave a keynote address spoke at CEDA on 2 March 2018 about the future of the aged care sector, in light of the Legislated Review of Aged Care, the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes and the announcement of a new Aged Care Workforce Taskforce.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee is currently inquiring into the effectiveness of the Aged Care Quality Assessment and accreditation framework, prompted also by the failures of care at Oakden. The Committee released an interim report on 13 February 2018. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport is also inquiring into the quality of care in residential aged care facilities in Australia and invited submissions by 1 March 2018.
Clearly, the Review of Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes has already had significant impact on the aged care sector, and we're proud to have made an important contribution to aged care reform. Stay tuned for further developments.