Residential aged care providers must only categorise unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct as Priority 1 reportable incidences from now on.
Previously, when reporting serious incidents providers had an option to choose between Priority 1 or Priority 2. But from Monday 3 October, the Serious Incident Reporting Scheme form in the My Aged Care Service and Support Portal was changed so that providers can now only choose Priority 1 as an option when reporting incidents of a sexual nature.
When Australian Ageing Agenda asked the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission – the body responsible for reviewing incident notifications – for the reason for the change, a spokesperson replied: “This change was made in response to stakeholder concerns that aged care providers may inappropriately assess the level of harm caused as a result of an incident of unlawful sexual conduct or inappropriate sexual conduct, and therefore incorrectly categorise the priority of the incident.”
Priority 1 incidents must be reported within 24 hours of the provider becoming aware of the incident. Priority 1 reportable incidents are occurrences:
- that have caused or could reasonably have been expected to cause, a consumer physical or psychological injury or discomfort that requires medical or psychological treatment to resolve
- where there are reasonable grounds to contact the police (this is taken to include all incidents involving alleged, suspected or witnessed sexual assault)
- where there is the unexpected death of a consumer or a consumer’s unexplained absence from the service.
“The commission reviews all incident notifications within 24 hours, seven days a week and takes action where we determine an ongoing risk of harm to residents and/or where the aged care provider has not dealt with the incident appropriately,” a spokesperson told AAA.
Providers must also file a police report within 24 hours of incidents that are unlawful or considered to be of a criminal nature – such as sexual assault.
According to the commission’s latest quality performance report, there were 452 incidences of unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct in residential aged care homes during the April-June quarter.
Other guideline changes
Guideline changes have also been made to questions about the psychological or physical impacts of incidents. If reporting there was no impact from an incident, providers must now need to explain to the commission the rationale behind the assessment.
Other amendments to the guidelines include:
- replacing some references to ‘distress’ and ‘impact’ with ‘harm’ and/or ‘discomfort’ to align with aged care legislation
- more clearly defining ‘could reasonably have been expected to have caused’
- providing more guidance on the repeated use of restrictive practices.
Amendments have also been made to the SIRS section support tool to correlate the updates to the guidelines.
To access further information regarding SIRS, including the commission’s guidance materials, residential aged care providers can visit the SIRS provider resources page. Providers are also encouraged to call 1800 081 549 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if they have any queries.
The SIRS reporting changes are part of a major upgrade to the My Aged Care system.
SIRS and home care service settings
From 1 December 2022, SIRS will also apply to home care service settings – both home care and flexible care.
A webinar on SIRS in home services was hosted by the commission on 26 September, which can be viewed below.
Two further webinars are scheduled:
- Tuesday 18 October 4:00-5:00pm AEDT (SIRS reportable incidents)
- Monday 7 November 4:00-5:00pm AEDT (reporting under the SIRS)
Registrations for the webinars open one week before each event.
The commission is also developing a suite of resources to support home service providers, their workforce and aged care recipients to understand their rights and responsibilities under SIRS. The resources are planned for release in coming weeks.