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Providers welcome flexible aged care standards

Aged services delivering both residential and home care tell AAA they are confident proposed common standards can be applied across different settings.

Providers say they see merit in the proposed standards’ flexibility and reduced red tape, while the three-tiered approach of outcomes, expectations and requirements is considered logical.

But they stress that more consideration is needed in respect to the Commonwealth Home Support Program and the government must assure there is an independent assessment and compliance regime.

The government is set to introduce a new quality framework from July 2018 with a single set of standards governing all subsidised aged care, replacing the four sets currently covering residential care, home care, transition care and Aboriginal flexible aged care.

Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt released the draft standards along with three options for streamlining the assessment of provider performance against these standards last week for feedback (read AAA’s story here).

Several providers that Australian Ageing Agenda spoke to this week said they welcomed the flexibility outlined in the draft proposals.

Emphasis on governance

Richard Hearn

Resthaven CEO Richard Hearn told AAA the proposals were significant and important developments.

“The intent is to have some flexibility as it relates to service types and risk, with more emphasis on the individual using a service and on how staff work with individuals,” Mr Hearn said.

“We see merit in the emphasis given to governance as a standard for the first time. The prominence and importance of governance needs to be lifted, as this will do. This has been a key focus of the work of the SA Innovation Hub.”

However, he said the Commonwealth Home Support Program moving from program guidelines and contractual requirements to a standards-based approach was a key adjustment that needed attention.

“This aspect needs to be given close consideration with respect to the intent of the standards and how we consider their alignment to existing processes,” Mr Hearn said.

Flexible and adaptable

Amana Living’s general manager of healthcare and risk Tim Nayton said the new standards would ensure his organisation’s services in residential, home care transition care and short-term restorative care could be assessed consistently against one, adaptable framework.

“This new framework can be linked to our current organisational quality management system and organisational culture, ensuring we provide services based on consumer feedback through a consistent assessment approach that focuses on safety, quality and wellbeing of consumers.”

He said the standards incorporated a business, governance, holistic and consumer focused approach that ensured a positive culture and outcome for all stakeholders.

Consumers would be better informed about the quality and performance of services available to them, which would assist them to make decisions about where they chose to live in their later years, Mr Nayton said.

Must not be too prescriptive

Craig Hamer

Noting a need for flexibility in how services were delivered, IRT Care CEO Craig Hamer said that applying a common set of standards to all types of aged care is consistent with government efforts to harmonise the funding of residential and home care.

“The three tier approach – outcomes, expectations and requirements – seems logical, provided the standards aren’t overly prescriptive,” Mr Hamer told AAA.

“In the era of CDC, providers need maximum flexibility in how we deliver aged care services to meet the needs of consumers and the outcomes determined by government,” he said.

Mr Hamer said the new standards would need to be supported by an effective and independent assessment and compliance regime.

Mr Hearn said he supported the proposed framework’s intent to minimise duplication with other regulatory bodies and potentially other accreditation schemes that covered similar standards.

But integration and definition of a quality system was an important area that required more consideration, he said.

“We see the need for better definition between proposed quality standards as reviewed in these papers, which will be implemented by the quality agency, and the quality indicators project that sits within the department.”

Consultation submissions close on 21 April.

The government said that feedback will inform revisions of the standards ahead of a pilot in the second half of this year.

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