The first change to residential aged care quality standards in 20 years will be rolled out across Australia today.

The new standards have been devised to put recipients of aged care services – now called consumers – at the centre of care. It is a philosophical shift, as well as a practical one.

The change comes as aged care faces a royal commission, where harrowing stories and shocking revelations have raised deep concerns about what is happening in the sector.

Janet Anderson, the head of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, spoke to HelloCare about the changes, and said the commission is expecting providers to move “energetically” to implement new standards.

“We’re looking for providers to focus more clearly, more directly, more consistently on what’s going to work best for consumers,” she said.

“What are their needs, their values, their preferences? And how can the providers work closely with consumers to do whatever they can to allow those personal attributes, those qualities of the consumer, to come through the care and outcomes which are being sought?”

“We are cautiously confident the sector has lifted its game”

She said the commission is feeling “upbeat” and “encouraged” by the level of preparation and change they’ve seen so far. 

“We’ve had some good early feedback in the sector in the months leading in to today, where they are definitely concentrating hard, doing what they need to do, and remedying any shortcomings they’ve identified through self assessment.

“We are cautiously confident that the sector has lifted its game and is looking closely now, in a way that perhaps wasn’t the case before, at the ways it can meet consumers’ needs and enable consumers to lead their best lives in residential aged care.”

Staff expected to be implementing the new standards in daily practice

Here at HelloCare, we have heard from a number of staff saying they have received little training ahead of the new standards. 

Ms Anderson said the commission expects providers to have trained all staff, and that the new standards are now being implemented in everyday care.

“We certainly have a very clear expectation that the providers will ensure that the staff are aware of the standards and are implementing the standards in daily practice,” she said.

Aged care assessors: “more can be done”

Ms Anderson said more can be done to train aged care assessors.

“We have worked very diligently with the quality assessor workforce,” she said. 

“There is always more that can be done, and we are on a continual improvement journey of our own to ensure we have the capability and are doing the work the community at large expects of us.” 

“We will be held to account for our performance, just as we hold providers to account for theirs.”

New standards should not add to ongoing costs

Although the government provided additional funding for the sector last financial year in recognition of the fact there may be costs involved in moving to the new standards, there should not be added ongoing costs, Ms Anderson said.

“As for whether additional costs will be required ongoing, I’m not convinced… I don’t see in the standards themselves that we’re asking for a lot of different and more onerous actions to be undertaken. 

“We’re really talking about talking with consumers about planning and delivering their care. I think there are numbers of people in the community who would expect that that was always the way in aged care.”

Both the commission and providers have put in huge efforts

Ms Anderson said providers have been given enough time and resources to help them prepare, and more resources are on their way.

“The standards have been known about for a year. There’s been an intensive education program. We’ve had more than 5,000 people participating in our education seminars, and over 45,000 views of the videos we’ve put online to introduce people to the new standards. 

“So there’s been a lot of effort put in by the commission, and also by the providers themselves to make sure they understand the new standards and also what’s expected of them.”

Ms Anderson said the commission itself has worked hard to prepare for the changes and is ready.

“I believe we’re ready,” she said. 

“To have the new standards introduced within six months of our operation has certainly required us to concentrate hard, and to work reallly assiduously and consistently over those six months.” 

New tools already improving consumers’ lives

Ms Anderson said “it’s difficult to say” if there will be a spike in non-compliance as the new standards roll out. 

“I’m optimistic the provider sector knows what they have to do and has taken significant steps in that direction if there were areas that further work was required. 

“So I’d like to think that they’re ready to be assessed against the news standards, and let’s see how the next couple of months unfold,” she said.

If providers are looking for more help, Ms Anderson advised them to go to the commission’s website, and to keep referring back to it for updated information which will continue to be released.

“There will be ongoing initiatives,” she said. 

A tool for providers to self assess the use of psychotropic medications for residents in their care has been successful, and there are likely to be similar initiatives over time, Ms Anderson said.

“We’ve had a couple of providers who’ve said it was a really useful exercise that they undertook and they reached some different conclusions about some medication regimes as a result of the exercise, which perhaps wouldn’t have come to mind if they’d not done it. 

“So if we’ve changed the outlook for a particular consumer who may have been receiving some form of medication which is no longer required or required in a lower dose, then that’s a really good outcome and we’re really pleased about that.”

If providers would like more help in preparing for the new aged care quality standards you can visit the Quality and Safety Commission’s website.

 

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