Royal Commission hearings resumed on Monday, with the commission turning its focus to redesign of Australia’s aged care system.

What has become clear from the direction of the hearings since the release of the Interim Report last year, is that the commissioners are intent on a “complete overhaul” of Australia’s aged care system.

This week’s hearings are the first to be held since the Interim Report was released.

Royal commission developing new model for aged care

In December last year, the royal commission released a proposed model for an overhaul of the aged care system. That model formed the starting point for discussions on Monday.

The entry point of the proposed new system would be a face-to-face meeting, backed up by online and call centre services.

At present, the model is reversed, the starting point is online and call centre services, and face-to-face services are only offered occasionally.

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO, Pat Sparrow, said designing a system with more face-to-face support was an “opportunity” and that it would work well for a broad range of people accessing aged care services.

She said she was particularly pleased to see the proposal extends to face-to-face support capacity in the regions.

Face-to-face will “solve a lot of problems”

Professor of Health Economics at the Centre of Health Economics, Research and Evaluation at the University of Sydney, Professor Mike Woods, said, “The face-to-face navigation role is absolutely fundamental and will solve a lot of problems where people just get lost in the system and, therefore, drop out.”

Counsel assisting the royal commission, Mr Peter Gray QC, said the face-to-face services should be available promptly on request, and should be offered “proactively” when a professional identifies that a person needs help.

Online services are still important

Professor John McCallum, CEO and research director National Seniors Australia, said he was “supportive” of a move to greater face-to-face support, so long as online information was also available.

“There’s a digital world we live in. It’s much more efficient. We are designing a system for the future,” he said, although conceding that online information has “limits” and “face-to-face is very important”.

Accessing the services might first be offered by a GP or nurse in a GP’s surgery, or a health practitioner from a trusted entity that recognises an unmet need in a patient.

Help for the cognitively impaired or people with communications challenges should also be provided at the time.

Mr Gray said there was a “broad consensus” on the panel that face-to-face services be the entry point to the a redesigned aged care system.

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