Less than a quarter of aged care residents say their needs are always met, while fewer than three in five say their needs are met most of the time, a new aged care royal commission report shows.
The report, which was released on Monday evening, explores aged care recipients’ quality of the care experiences and the community’s expectations of care.
The Caring Futures Institute at Flinders University produced the report using data from three national surveys it conducted for the aged care royal commission during 2020 (see below).
The research draws from a large-scale general public survey of Australians and two surveys of residential and home aged care recipients.
The research found 24 per cent of aged care residents feel their care needs are always met for all key aspects of care, including appropriate action to address complaints while 58 per cent feel their needs are at least mostly met across all key aspects of care.
In comparison an overwhelming majority of the public consider that quality aged care in Australia should be at least able to meet the person’s needs most of the time, said Professor Julie Ratcliffe, lead author of the paper.
“We’re finding that there is a gap between general public expectations about the quality of care that’s delivered in Australia’s aged care system and what older people and their family carers told us about the quality of care they’re receiving,” Professor Ratcliffe told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The general public survey also shows that most Australians consider aged care a vital social service.
The report shows that 61 per cent of taxpayers are willing to pay an additional 1.4 per cent each year on average to ensure all Australians in need have access to a satisfactory level of quality aged care, and an additional 3.1 per cent per year on average to ensure all Australians in need have access to a high level of quality aged care (read more here).
Additional taxes are only a temporary fix, said Professor Ratcliffe, a professor of health economics at Flinders’ College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
“It will go a long way to fund the aged care service quality improvement for the moment but we do know that moving forward, if we project out the proportion of the working population relative to the proportion of older people, that ratio is decreasing over time due to the ageing population,” she said.
“We need to have a national conversation about other ways in which we can fund aged care, for example social insurance contributions or other mechanisms beyond income taxation.”
The findings tell us that there is still work to be done to improve the sector, she said.
“We know there’s a lot of heterogeneity out there in the way that aged care services are currently provided and the quality of the care that’s provided across the system,” she said.
Professor Ratcliffe called for more public accountability and transparency around the quality of aged care service delivery to ensure residents’ expectations are met.
“It’s a publicly funded system and we should have that publicly available data out there, but we do also need to be able to fund those quality improvements.
“The work that we’ve done shows that the general public is recognising that more funding is needed to improve the numbers of staff or the skills of staff, but also to elevate the quality of aged care service delivery,” she said.
The statistics collected in the report are straightforward to collect on a large scale, Professor Ratcliffe said.
“There’s no reason why we can’t be collecting this data nationwide and why it can’t be public.”
This report is the last research paper from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety ahead of the release of its final report due on Friday 26 February.
Access the Research Paper 20 – The quality of care experience and community expectations report here.