A Senate inquiry has recommended the federal government take steps to make it clear that residential aged care providers ultimately hold a duty of care to all residents and that the quality commission has a similar responsibility for regulation.

The inquiry into aged care quality assessment and accreditation also called on the government to respond to key aged care reports from the past decade to improve the delivery of aged care services and regulation in a recommendation that is strongly supported by aged care peak bodies.

The Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs tabled its final report last week after a lengthy inquiry that commenced on 13 June 2017 after then Senator Nick Xenophon instigated it following the failures at the Oakden facility in South Australia.

The first stage of the inquiry investigated the accreditation framework and its ability to protect residents from abuse and poor practices and the committee backed calls for an overhaul of the quality oversight and regulation framework in its interim report released on 13 February 2018.

The final stage focused on the sector-wide standard of clinical care provided to aged care residents. The committee found this area stood out as a key issue of concern throughout the inquiry.

The inquiry received 103 submissions from aged care peak bodies, providers and stakeholders and made 14 recommendations including that the government clarify that residential aged care providers ultimately hold a duty of care to all residents.

The inquiry found that the new aged care standards placed great emphasis on the responsibility for facilities to deliver person-centred care but no corresponding emphasis on person-centred regulation.

It said there should also be a clearly defined principle that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has ultimate duty of care for the regulation of aged care.

“In short, if all care that occurs in an residential aged care facility is the ultimate responsibility of the residential aged care facility provider, then it is the responsibility of the Aged Care [Quality and Safety] Commission to oversee that duty of care. Where there are regulatory gaps, the [commission] must fill those gaps.”

Stakeholder response

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow said providers were already aware of their duty of care to residents.

“The real issue is the interface between aged care and health care services,” Ms Sparrow told Australian Ageing Ageing.

“Whether you’re a primary health care practitioner or an aged care provider, it’s about making sure you’re very clear about what your duty of care is to that particular older Australian that you’re supporting, and both playing the role that they need to play,” she said.

Pat Sparrow

“In every day and every way, aged care providers are providing care for older Australians and in doing that they’re very mindful and responsive to what their duty of care is,” Ms Sparrow said.

Ms Sparrow backed the calls for the the government to address recommendations made in previous reports as did Aged Care Guild CEO Matthew Richter, who attended one of the committee’s three public hearings.

“[The Guild] strongly agrees with the committee that the Australian Government release its consolidated response to all recommendations in key reports made in the past decade,” Mr Richter told AAA.

Mr Richter said a consolidated response was needed to ensure the new Single Quality Aged Care framework was implemented effectively and led to a major shift in aged care including a higher focus on consumer outcomes.

Matthew Richter

He also called for a commitment from government to respond to 14 recommendations this inquiry made.

“The Guild encourages both sides of politics to commit to responding to all these recommendations and to the delivery of a comprehensive long-term plan for the future of aged care in this country.

“This work can commence whilst the royal commission examines further many of the issues outlined in the committee’s report,” Mr Richter said.

The Senate committee report also recommended:

  • government establish a body responsible for aged care research
  • government continue work to expand the role of the quality and safety commission in consultation with aged care stakeholders
  • the quality and safety commission work collaboratively with the Department of Health, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and aged care stakeholders to develop an industry model of care
  • government urgently make changes to ensure the use of antipsychotic medications in aged care are approved by aged care’s chief clinical advisor.

View the report and full recommendations here.

View submissions to the inquiry here.

See related coverage

Aged care senate inquiry receives few submissions

Call to examine performance of Aged Care Quality Agency

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