The Government has announced the creation of a new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which will replace the Aged Care Quality Agency (which audits nursing homes) and the office of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.
This means an independent body will oversee the aged care industry. Currently, the Aged Care Quality Agency is part of the Department of Health, which is subject to ministerial direction. An independent Commission does not take orders from the Minister.
The current Aged Care Complaints Commissioner is already independent. However, the Complaints Commissioner is currently staffed by employees of the Department of Health. This arrangement will finish on 1 January 2019 with employees being employed directly by the Commission.
Making accreditation and complaints handling independent from ministerial direction makes sense. But don’t expect the quality of care to improve as a result. Audit and accreditation methodology will not change, even though a new set of quality standards is also about to be introduced.
The new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will not change anything until objectively measurable aged care quality standards are introduced.
Those standards would need to enable assessment of nursing homes’ performance by the health and wellbeing of residents.
Currently audits look at processes and evidence of processes being used. For example, the current standards say that “care recipients’ oral and dental health [must] be maintained”. The way this is assessed is by looking to see if care plans refer to teeth being cleaned every night, if charts for teeth cleaning are duly marked off and if the home orders supplies like toothpaste etc.
A more direct way would be to check dental records of check-ups and treatment. They would be far more revealing of a resident’s oral health. It might even be a cheaper way.