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What the Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety means for you

Victor Harcourt

With the Prime Minister's call to establish a Royal Commission into the aged care sector, many approved providers are seeking information about what they should be doing now.  

The Government has outlined the potential scope of the Royal Commission to cover:

  • The quality of care provided to older Australians, and the extent of substandard care;
  • The challenge of providing care to Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care, particularly younger people with disabilities;
  • The challenge of supporting the increasing number of Australians suffering dementia and addressing their care needs as they age;
  • The future challenges and opportunities for delivering aged care services in the context of changing demographics, including in remote, rural and regional Australia; and
  • Any other matters that the Royal Commission considers necessary.

As quoted in the media release from the Department of Health.

What do we know? 

Given that the final Terms of Reference has been earmarked to be settled in consultation with the community we expect that the full details of the Royal Commission will not be settled for some weeks. Nevertheless, political commentary indicates that the Commission will be underway before the next Federal Election which leaves a short period of time for the Commissioner to collect and hear information.

Because of the size of the industry and the initial comments made, the focus appears likely to be on the more dramatic events in the aged care space and those that have received media attention. As such, we think it likely that the Commission will inform itself using the information available in the media, and from the databases of the Quality Agency and Complaints Commissioner in the first instance. While we can only speculate for now, we think it appropriate for providers to begin preparing their organisations for this significant review based on this potential approach.

Top 5 things we recommend you start doing now

  1. Document management - As with any Royal Commission, the quality of information and data that an organisation submits is key. We suggest you formulate a thorough system for managing your documents across the organisation and consider whether a third party information system provider is necessary.

  2. Collation of submissions - Compile any submissions or papers your organisation has contributed to in the past, for example, to the Tune Review or Senate inquiries, to gauge an idea about your organisation’s role in the reform landscape.

  3. Issues identification - Assess where your organisation stands on each of the issues scoped in the Royal Commission. For example, are you exposed in certain areas regarding complaints or compliance? You may wish to collate data on those areas of your organisation which present a risk and brief the Board about those risks. You may also find it helpful to develop a matrix which attests to any improvements in those areas since and the continuous improvement planned.

  4. Identify key contributors - Identify who in your organisation is likely to represent your organisation should you be involved in giving evidence and who in your team will be involved in preparing for the Royal Commission.

  5. Reputation and stakeholder management - Ensure you have a media and public relations system in place to handle the calls you may receive and how the issues will be communicated to your stakeholders.

What next?

Once the Terms of Reference have been finalised and key dates for the Royal Commission have been set, providers should consider developing a timeline relevant to their organisation which sets out the milestones you’ll need to meet in order to be prepared. It won’t be until the finalised Terms of Reference has been circulated and the Notices to Produce have been sent that the industry will have greater clarity on how the Commission will unfold.

Russell Kennedy not only has a long history of aged care sector expertise, but also has a market leading government and administrative law practice with experience in Royal Commissions and judicial inquiries and will be developing further resources to assist the industry and will keep you updated with information as it comes to hand.

If you would like more information please contact Victor Harcourt from our Aged Care team.

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