Funding, new programs and transparency are among the most important elements of the aged care system redesign, a health department bureaucrat tells an industry forum.
Department of Health first assistant secretary Dr Nick Hartland told the Leading Age Services Australia Roadmap to Reform virtual forum on Thursday that funding was key to the aged care sector’s reform agenda.
“The way in which we fund aged care is going to fundamentally change over the next three-to-five years,” Dr Hartland told the virtual forum.
“The introduction of the [Australian National Aged Care Classification], the introduction of a new supportive home program is really going to change the way in which… we dole out money and results are achieved,” Dr Hartland said.
Funding gets us to a situation where the experience is going to be fundamentally different for consumers, he said.
“Having new programs and a new way of funding is a way of getting consumers to have choice to control across the whole spectrum of what happens to them. So it fundamentally changes the way that consumers enters the system and goes through the system.”
Transparency is another key part of the reform agenda, but funding comes first, Dr Hartland said.
“Lots of people might say that the transparency agenda is the most important thing for them and that would be a very legitimate way of looking at the royal commission. But that transparency agenda also depends on funding rapport,” Dr Hartland said.
“It’s very hard for me to imagine the star-rating system, for example, that doesn’t have something like the AN-ACC ticking in the background because otherwise you could never figure out whether a provider’s performance is related to the nature of people they’ve had on their books… or whether it’s actually something about the providers,” he said.
Governance and oversight of a single assessment process
Elsewhere, Dr Hartland talked about the new single comprehensive assessment process and ensuring assessors were fair across the board.
A new single assessment process replaces the Aged Care Assessment Program and the Regional Assessment Services for residential care from October 2022 and for home care from July 2023.
Dr Hartland said “standardising the tools” was an important part of governing the single assessment process.
“There are ways in which you can check that assessors are applying the same tool consistently and there are ways in which you can check accuracy of assessment decisions, and I think if you’ve got those process points right, then that’s a really important piece to getting fair consistent assessments across the system,” he said.
Major risks to successful reform
Dr Hartland said the 100-plus projects contributing to the reform agenda and sequencing things like consultations and bills presented high risks for the health department.
“And that’s for us to get right,” he said.
Other major risks include provider readiness, engagement with providers and consumers and technical components of the reform process.
“There’s a big risk that both the department and our colleagues, either the peaks or providers, can lose sight of the consumer because there’s just so much to do,” he said.
“Understanding what that means for a consumer and checking back – did this make any sense and did this actually improve things? – would be really easy to lose because there’s a massive reform and some of it is highly technical,” he said.
The LASA Roadmap to Reform virtual forum took place on 15 July.