New Aged Care Standards: now is the time to prepare
On 1 July 2019, the new Aged Care Quality Standards will come into effect, and the current set of four program-specific standards for Residential Care, Home Care, Transition Care and the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Programs will be retired.
While the current standards focus primarily on assessing organisational performance against practices and processes for care delivery, the new standards will also assess organisational performance against outcomes achieved for consumers.
This fundamental shift in approach from process to outcome evaluation by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) brings quality review processes into alignment with commercial care and service industries and raises the bar in aged-care service evaluation — the future of consumer directed care.
There are eight Quality Standards that make up the new Aged Care Quality Standards.
- Consumer dignity and choice
- Ongoing assessment and planning with consumers
- Personal care and clinical care
- Services and supports for daily living
- Organisation’s service environment
- Feedback and complaints
- Human resources
- Organisational governance
Each of these eight Quality Standards is expressed in three ways:
- A statement of outcome for the consumer — Quality review processes focus on consumer outcomes and the examination of evidence of consumer experience.
- A statement of expectation for the organisation — Quality review processes focus on the systems and processes that organisations have in place to support the realisation of this statement.
- Organisational requirements — The Aged Care Standards Guidance Materials provide an outline of each requirement, reflective questions and examples of evidence that demonstrate how elements of the organisational requirements are met.
So how do we prepare for this transition?
It will be a different process for all providers, dependent on many variables — size of service, location of service, staff resources available and so on.
The AACQA is very clear on the fact that it will not be prescriptive and tell you how to run your service.
Providers are encouraged to outline their process for transition to the new Aged Care Standards within an Action Plan. Whatever path taken, the Action Plan should aim to:
- Align systems, policies and practices with the new standards.
- Support staff to understand the requirements of the new standards.
- Support consumers to understand what the changes mean to them.
The Aged Care Standards Guidance Materials can be used as a measuring stick to self-assess performance against the organisational requirements. Organisations do need to look carefully at each of the three expressions of each standard, however, to account for consumer outcomes in navigating the current period of transition.
It will likely be helpful for providers to initially map existing evidence, comprising current practices and processes, against the organisational requirements listed for each standard, and consider the reflective questions and examples of actions and evidence that are listed in the Guidance Materials. This mapping exercise should seek to determine whether current scope of available evidence is satisfactory, in need of revision or has identified gaps that need to be addressed in the lead-up to 1 July 2019.
Providers can then leverage off well-established service evaluation frameworks to extend this mapping process as they transition from old to new in accounting for outcome evaluation.
Stay ahead with a whole-of-staff approach
Operators are encouraged to involve all staff in the transition process — remembering that accreditation is now unannounced and the focus is on the consumer (Consumer Experience Report) and staff.
Involvement of all staff is critical. Ongoing compliance cannot be managed from an office and the expectation will be that the staff providing the care — be it personal care, hotel services or health care — will need to have a thorough understanding of the standards and how they work.
In particular, staff will need to understand some new concepts, such as:
- Dignity of Risk — embraces the idea that self-determination and the right to take reasonable risks are essential for dignity and self-esteem.
- Cultural Safety — an environment that is safe for people: where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning, living and working together with dignity and truly listening.
- Diversity — to embrace and understand the differences that make lived experiences unique.
- Communication — conversation, actually knowing the consumer and their needs/wants/requirements.
- Inclusion — to be involved in decision-making that impacts the consumer.
Choice — to continue to make choices about optimal care and services.
If providers have not yet accessed the resource materials provided on the AACQA website, now is the time to do it. AACQA have on their website a template for self-assessment on the current standards, which could be a good baseline document for direct care staff to consider while ensuring ongoing compliance with the current standards.
As providers move forward it is worth noting that everything in the new standards is in the current standards, it is primarily about the how, not the what. The focus is on enhancing the consumer experience while providing optimum care. The new standards are a minimum, innovators will thrive!
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