Aged Care Assessment Teams are an essential part of aged care as they determine the physical, psychological, medical, restorative, cultural and social needs of older people in order to help them, and their carers, to access appropriate levels of support.
With concerns over assessment delays, the Department of Health have requested state and territory governments to demonstrate how they will improve ACAT performance levels.
Earlier this year, health department officials revealed that assessment teams in just two states were meeting their targets for “high priority” referrals. It was reported that the number of ACAT assessments performed annually has fallen from 223,649 in 2013 to 192,087 in 2015.
At a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday, department officials reported that states were being held accountable for failures to meet key performance targets to deliver comprehensive assessments for older people.
Tasmania and Queensland were named as some of the worst performing jurisdictions. It was revealed at the hearing that some states were taking up to three month to complete 80 per cent of assessments that are referred to them by My Aged Care.
Each state and territory were expected to hand in plans explaining how they proposed to show improvement.
At the hearing Fiona Buffinton, first assistant secretary aged care access and quality, explained, “we have identified areas of concern. Some states are more timely than others, and so we have taken a much stronger action with those states.”
Last week, only Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia were able to meet deadline to submit plans to lift their performance. The department are still awaiting reports from the other states and territories.
Resourcing from the Government was not the reason for the delays, according to the department. And further investigation was being looked at in terms of workforce numbers and technology used by ACAT teams.
“It is highly variable the technology that ACAT teams are using. Some are using iPads and an application that can reduce the time for each assessment by 30 minutes and some regions are using very old technology,” said Buffinton.
Buffinton also told that hearing that state governments had been requested to focus on the timeliness of assessments, staff education and the efficiency of systems. Additionally, improvements could be made in the consistency of ACAT performance across different regions within a state.
When questioned about whether there were plans to combine Aged Care Assessment Teams and Regional Assessment Service in the near future, the department said there was currently no government commitment to introduce a single assessment service.