Janet Anderson, commissioner with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, has responded to claims recently published in HelloCare, that aged care quality assessors have become more aggressive. We have published her response below.

The role of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of aged care consumers. We perform this role through our statutory functions relating to consumer engagement, education, complaints resolution, and quality assessment and compliance monitoring against legislated standards.

Our quality assessors are bound by a code of conduct which ensures the highest standard of performance and integrity. Under this code, they are required to act professionally at all times and accurately report findings in a consistent and unbiased manner.

To meet registration requirements, all our quality assessors must complete the Commission-approved training program and participate in a mandatory continuing professional development program. This is to support consistency across the Commission, not only in in our approach to assessment but also with our policies and procedures.

Providers are invited to give feedback to the Commission following a site audit or monitoring visit. We welcome this feedback which is used to improve how we work. I encourage any provider who considers that our quality assessors may not have acted professionally to make a complaint to the Commission. They can call 1800 951 822 or download and fill in our Complaints About Us form.

Approved providers are expected to be compliant with the applicable legislated standards at all times. In order to properly assess this, the Government decided that audits and monitoring visits should be unannounced rather than booked with the provider in advance (which afforded the provider an opportunity for intensive preparation). It is now the case that all re-accreditation audits are unannounced, and all providers are subject to at least one unannounced monitoring visit each year. All visits commence with an entry meeting where our quality assessors outline how the assessment will be conducted.

The Commission and its predecessor, the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (Quality Agency), have supported providers throughout the transition year leading up to implementation of the Aged Care Quality Standards from 1 July 2019.

Guidance and resources to help providers ensure that they are ready to be assessed against the new Standards was made available to the sector by the Quality Agency from August 2018. Other supporting information and resources have progressively been published online since the Commission commenced in January 2019.

In April 2019 I wrote to all approved providers to ensure they are aware of the important changes that come into effect from July. A provider education pack with material that is available on the Commission’s website has been distributed to over 5,000 aged care services across Australia. 

The Commission has also provided face-to-face education programs for over 5,000 participants representing providers across multiple locations including in rural and regional areas. A recently published video on the Commission’s website explaining the assessment process under the new Standards has been viewed by over 20,000 people. 

The stronger focus on consumer outcomes under the new Aged Care Quality Standards will inform the Commission’s approach to assessing and monitoring compliance from 1 July. Providers will be expected to demonstrate how consumers are treated with dignity and respect and how they involve consumers in decisions about their care. 

Where non-compliance against the new Standards is identified, the Commission will (as is the case now) set a timetable for improvement to support the provider’s return to compliance. The Commission’s response to non-compliance is and will remain proportional to the level of assessed risk and the potential consequences of that risk for consumers. In implementing all its statutory functions, the Commission is committed to promoting continuous quality improvement by individual aged care providers and across the aged care sector. 

I acknowledge the enormous effort each of us – providers and regulator – in our respective roles, has given to ensuring successful implementation of the new Standards. I am confident the new Standards will not only deliver better experiences and outcomes for aged care consumers but also boost the trust and confidence that older Australians are entitled to have in the quality and safety of their aged care services. 

By Janet Anderson, commissioner, Australian Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Image: Janet Anderson. Source: The Australian.

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