Home | Aged Care Royal Commission | New consortium will make immediate difference to aged care: opinion

New consortium will make immediate difference to aged care: opinion

One issue the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s report hasn’t changed is that Australians still do not have visibility of whether care provided by a residential aged care facility is good, bad or indifferent.

The publicly available information is only whether facilities pass periodic accreditation, or if a facility’s care is profiled in the media, usually for sub-standard care. A new consortium of aged care experts has potential to change this.

The Royal Commission’s recommendations have a strong emphasis on improving governance of healthcare providers and the system as a whole. We welcome this focus to improve accountability at all levels of the system. Part of the new governance model will be to improve the level of disclosure to the regulators and the public on the quality of care that is being delivered to residents and their experience.

In order to do this, the Royal Commission recommends expanded use of quality indicators to measure and monitor aged care quality and safety. These are generally different to Healthcare or the current Aged Care Quality Standards. Standards are generally statements that systems and plans are in place to provide safe care to residents, so they are generally assessed at the level of the facility.

Quality indicators, on the other hand, more directly measure the level of care delivered to each resident. For example: Is each resident receiving a monthly assessment of malnutrition based on a validated tool? Is each eligible resident prescribed a strength and balance exercise training program to prevent falls? Is each resident with oral disease referred to a dentist? How many residents suffer a fracture from a fall in a 12-month period?

The level of care delivered to all residents against each of these indicators can be measured and care compared. This is something we can do right now, across the board, and we would likely see an immediate improvement.

The Australian Consortium for Aged Care (ACAC) is a national consortium of Australia’s leading researchers in aged care established to provide evidence-based innovations to reform the aged care sector. One of the strengths of the Consortium is many years of experience of developing quality indicators in aged care based on evidence. Our quality indicators can measure the evidence-based care delivered to residents and resident experience and outcomes. They encompass all the areas identified by the Royal Commission as requiring more understanding and improvements in care delivered including oral care, medication management, pressure injury, wound management, continence care, falls prevention and mobility, infection control, palliative care (all from Recommendation 19), weight loss, and physical restraint (Recommendation 22).

The Royal Commission has also recommended leveraging existing expertise. The national Consortium does this with well-established collaborations supported through multiple National Health and Medical Research Council and Medical Research Future Fund grants, and long-term experience working with the aged care providers and consumers.

Consortium members:

Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University

  • Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite
  • Professor Johanna Westbrook
  • Associate Professor Peter Hibbert
  • Dr Louise Wiles

Registry of Senior Australians, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

  • Professor Steve Wesselingh
  • Associate Professor Maria Inacio
  • Associate Professor Gillian Caughey
  • Associate Professor Craig Whitehead

Centre for Health Services Research, University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology

  • Professor Len Gray
  • Professor Elizabeth Beattie
  • Associate Professor Tracy Comans

Peter Hibbert is an associate professor at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University.

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