National Seniors welcomes new aged care watchdog

National Seniors Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of a new watchdog for the aged care industry, which will serve as a one-stop shop for complaints.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said yesterday the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, due to start work on 1 January 2019, was designed to promote transparency in the industry.

It follows the Carnell-Paterson review into failures at South Australia’s Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service last year, which led to its closure.

The new commission brings together the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, and the aged care regulatory functions of the Department of Health.

National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said that having a single point of contact for the aged care industry was a welcome move for consumers.

“Integration is necessary to improve the regulatory system,” Mr Henschke said.

“Putting all the functions of three different aged care bodies into one could be a challenge but if well implemented, it should lead to better monitoring and early detection of quality of care issues,” Mr Henschke said.

In addition, the government committed to developing a transparent ratings system to show how individual nursing homes perform against Aged Care Quality Standards.

“It’s important that older people and their families can have confidence that their aged care provider is meeting quality standards,” Mr Henschke said. 

“We look forward to working with the government on developing the performance rating system as well as a Serious Incident Response Scheme and a user-friendly comparison tool on the My Aged Care website.”

Mr Henschke said National Seniors had previously called for greater support for quality assessors by allowing them more time for evidence gathering as part of the aged care facility accreditation processes.

“We would also like to see the new commission use its broader functions to identify and implement practical changes that would improve the quality of care for all older Australians, so they receive the kind of care they deserve,” he said.

Minister Wyatt said yesterday the Federal Government would ensure Australians in the aged care system were better cared for, through raising the quality benchmarks that homes must meet. 

“The unified new commission will be a responsive, one-stop shop to prevent failures, highlight quality concerns and have them quickly rectified,” Mr Wyatt said. 

“This builds on the government’s recent introduction of unannounced re-accreditation audits across every one of Australia’s residential aged care facilities. 

“Importantly, the new commission will give senior Australians and their loved ones a single point of contact when they need help in dealing with claims of sub-standard care. 

“Risks to senior Australians will be investigated promptly and care failures identified faster.” 

A new Chief Clinical Advisor will provide advice to the commission, particularly on complex clinical matters. 

“We recognise that the vast majority of providers give consistent, quality care to their residents. But, as we have seen, there can be failures. We must ensure that disasters like Oakden are never repeated,” Mr Wyatt said. 

“Our senior Australians have built the nation that we enjoy today. They have rightly earned the respect of the community and must be cared for with the dignity they deserve.”

Listen to Ian Henschke discussing this matter on Canberra's 2CC radio with Tim Shaw here.

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