Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned the nation to “brace itself for some difficult stories” as he revealed the terms of reference for the royal commission into quality and safety in the aged care sector.
The commission will hold its inquiries in Adelaide and will be headed by two commissioners, Mr Morrison told a media conference in Sydney. The inquiry will begin “as soon as practicable” with a final report to be handed down by April 30, 2020 and an interim report due next October.
Mr Morrison also pledged the government would “push ahead” with current reforms to the aged care system, including the establishment of an independent aged care quality and safety watchdog.
He said the royal commission’s terms of reference were finalised after receiving input from more than 5,100 Australians.
It would be a “future-focused inquiry”, he said. “This is very much looking at what has happened but it is also very much about understanding what needs to be done into the future,” he told reporters.
“It is a very future-focused royal commission but it is going to learn from the mistakes and problems of the past.
“We need to establish a national culture of respect for senior Australians and Australians as they age.
“I think the country is going to have to brace itself for some difficult stories, some difficult circumstances, some difficult experiences.”
Two commissioners to carry out investigations
Health minister Greg Hunt said the two royal commissioners, West Australian Supreme Court Justice Joseph McGrath and Lynelle Briggs, a former Public Service Commissioner and Medicare CEO, would bring a frank and fearless approach to their investigation.
He said the terms of reference were deliberately broad but dealt in particular with quality and safety, how best to deliver care services, how best to care for the increasing number of people with dementia, and the delivery of accessible, affordable and quality aged care.
It would also look at delivering care through innovative investment, enabling consumers choice and control and options for young people with disabilities in aged care.
The commissioners also have the power to examine any other matters they consider relevant to the inquiry.
Mr Morrison said the introduction of a single set of quality standards and the establishment of an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission from next year had already been legislated for and would not be affected by the royal commission.
“We’ll be pushing ahead with all of those,” he said. “The royal commission is in addition to all of the things that we’ve already initiated, all of the additional funding that we’re already providing, and we will be getting on with our job as a government to deliver quality aged care services all around the country.
“The royal commissioners will be getting on with their job independently.”
He added that the commissioners would be able to consider the question of staffing ratios in tandem with general workforce issues.
“The general issues about the workforce and how it’s engaged in the sector are covered in the terms of reference, and if the royal commission wants to address those issues they are able to through the terms of reference,” he said.
Terms of reference get thumbs up from consumers
Consumer advocate Ian Yates of COTA Australia said the terms of reference were broad enough to “pretty well talk about anything” while providing clear direction.
He welcomed the inclusion of the issues of choice, control, workplace references, medication, restraint, population diversity, the interface with primary care, acute care and disability as well as management and governance. He said COTA also welcomed the fact that previous reviews and recommendations would be considered, and that support would be made available witnesses who needed it.
“Certainly they will forensically look at what went wrong and why, and to what extent, but also they’re being asked to look at best practice and innovation,” he told Community Care Review.
LASA CEO Sean Rooney said the terms of reference reflected the views of LASA members that the royal commission needed to focus on making Australia’s aged care system better. However he said the commission must also closely examine aged care funding and sustainability.
Terms of reference at a glance:
- Quality and safety of aged care services
- Provision of services to people with disability in aged care
- Provision of services to people with dementia
- Provision of services in remote, rural and regional Australia
- Delivery of person-centred care, choice and control
- Innovative models of care and technology
- Workforce and infrastructure
- Changing demographics and diversity of older Australians
- Interface of aged care with other services
- Findings and recommendations of previous reports of review
- End of life care, medication management, nutrition, clinical care and nutrition
- Elimination of restrictive practices
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