PC listens to consumers: more choice, better access

The commission’s draft report calls for a new gateway service to provide access to a single, integrated aged care system.

By Yasmin Noone and Tim Dixon

The competition-driven aged care system of the future should include a one-stop shop service for consumers to improve efficiency, reduce confusion and terminate redundant services, according to the Productivity Commission.

The commission’s draft report on its inquiry into aged care has advised the federal government to introduce a new ‘Australian Seniors Gateway Agency’ that would streamline the needs assessment processes currently performed by Home and Community Care (HACC) providers and the various state and territory Aged Care Assessment Teams.

This simplified gateway would provide access to a single, integrated and flexible system of care that would replace the discrete care packages that currently exist.

The proposed agency would provide information, assessment, care coordination and carer referral services which would be delivered via a regional network.

“The current system is complex and difficult to navigate,” the draft report said.

“For older people to be able to exercise choice, they need relevant, current and accurate information that they can easily understand.

“The Commission is proposing that this information be delivered by a new national platform that integrates, simplifies and enhances the current disparate information networks (including the National Carelink and Respite Centres and Department of Health and Ageing sites).

“A single aged care gateway agency would be responsible for the platform. Older Australians would be able to access the gateway’s information directly or through general practitioners (GPs), health clinics, Centrelink or other entry points.”

“Approval to an entitlement for basic home support would involve minimal assessment over the telephone or through a simple form. Those needing complex care would be assessed by local teams of professionals. An assessment of the capacity of informal carers, and any support they may require, would be part of the process.”
 
The federal government’s key economic advisory body has recommended that the Commonwealth establish the agency in “five years or more” and remove supply restrictions in both residential and community care within the same time frame.

“This opening up of supply, and creation of a responsive and competitive market, will require providers to change their business models and will test the management skills of some,” the report warned.

“However, the transition process must be orderly, to ensure the ongoing delivery of safe quality care to older people and viability of the aged care industry – although not necessarily the viability of all current providers.”

The draft report focuses strongly on consumer choice as an underlying principle for aged care reform.

It said many participants in the inquiry process had spoken in favour of a consumer-directed approach to care.

“Older Australians told the Commission that they did not want to be passive recipients of services, dependent on funded providers,” the draft report said.

“Rather, they wanted to be independent and be able to choose where they live, which provider they would use and whether to purchase additional services or a higher standard of accommodation.

“There is strong empirical evidence that consumer choice leads to positive wellbeing outcomes, such as higher life satisfaction, more independent living and better continuity of care. Competition among providers also leads to a more dynamic system, with incentives for greater efficiency, innovation and quality improvements.”

The commission says the government should review its current consumer-directed care trials in five years to see if it was viable for care and supported accommodation prices to be “liberalised” in certain areas.

Click here to see the full report.

Tags: access, aged-care, caring-for-older-australians, choice, consumer-directed-care, draft-report, productivity-commission,

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