Aged care reform continued over the holiday period, with two important regulatory changes taking effect from 1 January 2020.

Firstly, the aged care regulatory functions of the Department of Health were transferred to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner. 

And secondly, from 1 January 2020, doctors be required to apply for additional approval if the drug Risperidone is prescribed for a period longer than 12 weeks.  

The changes form part of the government’s initial response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Interim Report.

Aged care regulation under one banner

Shifting the Department of Health’s aged care regulatory functions to the ACQSC means the full suite of regulatory functions that relate to providers of aged care services are under one roof.

The ACQSC will now regulate: 

  • approval of all aged care providers, 
  • quality monitoring, 
  • compliance, 
  • enforcement of non-compliance, 
  • administration of the compulsory reporting of assaults, 
  • monitoring of prudential standards, and 
  • leaving or being removed from the sector, when needed.

The move is intended to remove duplication in the management of non-compliance with the standards. It will also allow for graduated and escalating responses to non-compliance with the standards, and streamline the performance assessment process, providing greater clarity to consumers and transparency for providers.

Having all aged care regulation under one banner – a one-stop shop for aged care regulation – was a key recommendation of the Carnell Paterson Review.

The change was legislated with the passing of the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Act 2019 which was only passed on 5 December 2019.

Tackling over-use of chemical restraint in aged care

The second change, additional regulation around the use of psychotropic medication, comes after the royal commission’s interim report recommended a response “to the significant over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care”.

From 1 January 2020, doctors will have to apply for additional approval if the medication is required to be taken for longer than 12 weeks.  

Minister for Aged Care, Richard Colbeck, said in a statement, “The Royal Commission identified an over-reliance on chemical restraint as a priority concern in aged care and the Government has taken this action among other measures to ensure senior Australians receive the care they expect and deserve.”

Additional education resources for prescribers are also being developed to support the appropriate use of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care, Mr Colbeck said.

Government will halt reform until after royal commission final report 

The government is continuing to review other aged care reforms, including developing a new funding model, but will not finalise them until the royal commission releases its final recommendations.

“It is important that the key long term challenges investigated by the royal commission are explored thoroughly to ensure the development of a sturdy response and recommendations for future reform,” said Mr Colbeck.

The Royal Commission’s Final Report is due to be delivered by 12 November.


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