What Lessons Can we Learn from the Royal Commission into the Failing of Aged Care

What can we learn from the 2019 Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety?

The 2019 Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was a wake-up call for the entire aged care sector, as well as for Australians in general. Established in September 2018 to examine the shortcomings of the industry, the commission heard many distressing stories of substandard treatment over its year of hearings. It uncovered how the aged care system has, in many instances, failed elderly and vulnerable Australians in their care.

The interim report, entitled Neglect and tabled in federal parliament on 31 October 2019, detailed “a shocking tale of neglect”, according to the commissioners. They called for the implementation of a  “…fundamental overhaul of the design, objectives, regulation and funding of aged care in Australia”.

“Sad and shocking”

Such was the level of neglect uncovered by the Royal Commission that Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs described it in the interim report as “sad and shocking”.

“The neglect that we have found in this Royal Commission, to date, is far from the best that can be done. Rather, it is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation.”

The shock waves from the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety still reverberate around the aged care industry and our society.

In response to the findings, the Federal Government pledged an additional $537 million in extra funding to address the most urgent of these cases. These included increasing the money available for in-home elderly care packages and reducing the chemical restraints used on residents, as well as moving younger people out of residential aged care.

However, in the wake of twelve months that uncovered a litany of often sickening issues, it has become clear that many organisations and institutions in the aged care industry need to review the way their administration have failed in their duty. This is a crucial component of the overhaul recommended by the Commission.

The institutional failures that were identified during the hearings fell under two main categories. 1. The culture within the aged care institution and 2. the clinical governance (or lack of) from the board.

Identifying poor administration

The Board of Governance for Aged Care has highlighted the following Red Flags that demonstrate bad administration and substandard culture within aged care organisations. However, while relating directly to the aged care sector, these signs are also relevant to any group working with the vulnerable members of our society:

  1. Incidents dismissed by management as one-offs or unavoidable.
  2. Low compliance with training/screening checks.
  3. Unresolved client complaints.
  4. Prioritising collegiality and harmony between board and management.
  5. Lack of meaningful data and trend in quality and safety.
  6. Lack of clear roles and responsibilities for service quality and safety.
  7. High-risk internal audit actions that are overdue/have not been addressed.

(source: Board of Governance for Aged Care)

The board is ultimately accountable for the quality and safety of care provided to its clients, and this should be its key focus. This culture starts at the top with standards set by the board. They should then ensure they hold the management accountable for any breaches.

Real change is happening!

This has often required a root and branch review of board, management and staff practices. However, real change is on the horizon! In recent months here at Be, we have noticed — and have been working with — some incredible organisations that are listening and have noted the lessons from the Royal Commission. These are groups inside and outside of Aged Care.

They are changing their administration to ensure they improve their service. This includes making sure the right people and systems are in place to promote quality and safe care for aged residents. They are, where necessary, changing administration practices and culture to promote improvements.

We expect that more lessons will come out of the report as it continues to create change across the Aged Care and the wider care sector. Just one example of these recommendations being carried out can be found in recruitment, as increased efforts are made to bring in the right personnel for the boards of aged care institutions across the country.

The importance of a clinical member of the board

One of the key recommendations was the adding of a clinical member to the board of an aged care organisation or institution. This would help to tighten the standards of care. Introducing a skills matrix to register special skills and interests for board members would also help to ensure the enforcement of these requirements.

We specialise in recruitment for health and social care sectors, and have the understanding and experience required to work with you to achieve your workplace goals. If you would like to talk to someone at Be regarding the recruitment of clinical staff, clinical board members or quality business partners please contact us at [email protected].

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