New standards a ‘roadmap’ for the sector

Implementation of the strengthened quality standards – delayed for an unknown period – will ‘put the client at the centre’ of care.

The new strengthened quality standards will clarify what is expected of aged care providers, delegates attending the Aged & Community Care Providers Association’s Queensland conference have been told this week.

“Things are a little bit more clearer,” said Daniel Aitchison – chief executive officer of residential care provider Palm Lake Care. However, Mr Aitchison added: “I don’t think it changes the world. If you’re aiming for best practice anyway, it shouldn’t take huge leaps and steps for your organisation.”

Adrian Morgan – general manager of Brisbane-based home care provider Flexi Care – told delegates that, for him, not much appeared to be changing. “It’s about refining rather than fundamental change across the board.”

There are, though, some aspects of the revised standards that are “noticeably different”, said Mr Morgan. “There is a much clearer emphasis on issues of diversity. Also, people with dementia are getting a much clearer focus on them.”

For Kris Whitehead – CEO of in-home care provider Home Instead – the changes contained in the new standards are about “putting the client at the centre of care.”

They also act as a roadmap for providers to follow, said Mr Whitehead. “They set out what we need to be doing, how we should be making changes.”

Reduced from eight to seven, the revised quality standards were due to kick in on 1 July alongside the new Aged Care Act. However, now that the Act’s deadline has been ditched, the rollout of the standards is also on pause.

“The strengthened standards have been finalised and will come into effect in line with the commencement of the new Aged Care Act,” a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Aged Care told Australian Ageing Agenda.

They added: “Introduction and commencement timeframes relating to the Bill for the new Aged Care Act are decisions for government.”

Delegates at ACCPA’s Queensland conference

Mr Morgan told delegates, as a result of the delay, Flexi Care has put staff training on hold. “If you train staff too early, they’ll forget,” he said. “The truth is training should be closer to the time that people are going to use it. That doesn’t mean that we’re not planning and preparing and briefing, but we’re not ready to train the staff generally yet.”  

Mr Morgan said that would happen when the sector is given a firm implementation date. “I’m more inclined to wait until [the government] has formally signed [the standards] off and then implement them across the organisation.”

Mr Morgan also said – while “very important” – ­the quality standards shouldn’t be the driving force behind an organisation’s service delivery. “Excellence comes from another place,” he said. “That certainly affects the way I look at the standards.”

Mr Morgan told delegates – some slightly bleary eyed from the gala dinner the night before – spending too much time focusing on the standards could impede innovation. “My experience with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is that, overall, they are not keen on innovation because it means you are doing something different to what they want.”

Discussing how Palm Lake Care was readying itself for the implementation of the strengthened standards, Mr Aitchison told delegates his organisation was rolling out a new standard every fortnight across its seven sites. “It’s a focus for that site, for our residents, for our staff. A bit of education, Standard 1 – what is it all about, what does this mean?”

It’s going back to basics

Kris Whitehead

The implementation of the new standards will be an ongoing process, said Mr Morgan. “Through behaviour, multiple sources of communication, formal training – that needs to come through all the time.”

When educating staff, Mr Morgan advised delegates to avoid government jargon. “I think it’s better for them to understand what they need to do – the translation to action rather than speaking the language of the commission and the language of the department.” It was, added Mr Morgan, a management responsibility to do that translating.

Mr Whitehead agreed ongoing training was crucial in order for staff to adhere to the standards. “Talking to them about exactly what they’re doing day in day out with their clients. We do expect excellence of our people and they come to work to provide that.”

Mr Aitchison said when the time comes for providers to roll out the standards, the key is to keep things simple. “There is a lot of information there but I think you need to keep bringing it back to what role an individual can play in making someone’s life better, so try and keep it simple.”

Mr Whitehead agreed. “It’s really going back to basics. There is a lot of change going on within the industry, there’s a lot of change going on for our clients and as an organisation we try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s really important for us to make sure we’ve got a really clear direction going forward.”

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Tags: ACCPA, ACCPA conference, adrian morgan, daniel aitchison, queensland,

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