Aged care set for quality overhaul as government moves to streamlined system

Aged care providers would face different levels of quality assessment depending on their history of compliance and the nature of their services under a dramatic shake-up of the system being considered by the Department of Health.

But any substantial changes are likely to be three years away, as bureaucrats say they want to engage significantly with the sector and pilot the changes before they become law.

The department is looking at better targeting the Commonwealth’s regulatory activities in line with the perceived level of risk in a provider’s services, in recognition of the huge variation in the system that now ranges from low-level domestic assistance in the home to intensive residential care.

Michael Culhane from the department’s aged care quality division said it was looking at segmenting providers by risk type and “targeting the frequency and scope of quality assessment activities to ensure these are proportionate to the services that are being assessed.”

“That should allow us to take account of the nature of the service and the provider’s history,” Mr Culhane told the Leading Age Services Australia national congress on Monday.

He also flagged that the department might move to take into account a provider’s compliance with other regulatory and quality frameworks, given many aged care organisations are delivering other services such as disability and healthcare.

Move to single quality framework

The proposed changes are among a raft of new measures being considered in the move to a single quality framework, which would replace the four sets of standards currently covering residential care, home care, transition care and Aboriginal flexible aged care.

“The intention is to create a single set of contemporary standards that better reflect the expectations of consumers and reduce unnecessary red tape for providers,” said Mr Culhane.

The new standards would be demonstrated in three ways: a statement of outcome for the consumer; a statement of expectation for the organisation; and operational requirements to demonstrate the standard has been met, he said.

Responding to long-standing criticisms that the current standards focus on processes and not on actual outcomes, Mr Culhane said the new arrangements would “help ensure the monitoring process focused both on consumer experience as well as systems and processes.”

The department is also considering the creation of a single provider registration scheme, to determine the suitability of all providers before they enter the market, Mr Culhane said. “Currently there is a range of different ways that providers are registered,” he said.

The department was interested in hearing from providers and consumers about what further quality information should be made available on My Aged Care, beyond the accreditation and compliance information for residential services which is currently published.

Changes are several years away

Discussing the timeline for the proposed changes, Mr Culhane said it could be 2019 before the new arrangements came fully into force. He outlined the key phases as:

  • 2016: department will continue working with sector stakeholders on developing the standards and quality assurance processes

  • 2017: broad public consultations on the streamlined arrangements; pilot the standards

  • 2018: refine and finalise the standards based on feedback; legislate the new arrangements; launch single quality framework.

Elsewhere, discussing the voluntary rollout of quality indicators in residential aged care, Mr Culhane said the data would not be made publicly available until 2018.

“We’ve made a commitment to the sector that the QI program results won’t be published or released until the data has been analysed and there’s been further consultation with the sector.

“We’ll probably need at least 12 months of data before thorough analysis of the data can occur, and then engagement with the sector about how that data might be represented and made publicly available. The earliest we can probably make this data available is 2018,” he said.


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