Royal Commission Final Report to be handed to the Governor-General tomorrow – what can the sector expect?

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After two-and-a-half years, 99 days of formal hearings and over 10,000 public submissions, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is finally due to hand its report to the Governor-General, His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd). Which areas are the recommendations likely to focus on – and what will be the timeframe for their implementation?

The Counsel Assisting had submitted 124 recommendations to Commissioners Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO at the Royal Commission’s final hearing last October.

While the recommendations formed part of a package, there were eight that were singled out for importance:

  1. a new Act based on human rights principles for older people
  2. a new planning regime for aged care which provides demand-driven access rather than the current rationed approach
  3. a new and independent process for setting aged care quality standards
  4. a new enforceable general duty of care on approved providers
  5. mandated staffing ratios in residential aged care
  6. compulsory registration of personal care workers
  7. an independent pricing authority that will determine aged care prices appropriate to the provision of high quality and safe aged care services, and
  8. an independent Australian Aged Care Commission that will be responsible for administering and regulating the aged care system.

While it is unknown where the Commissioners will support these measures or not – Commissioner Briggs already questioned the establishment of an independent aged care agency at the final hearing – we can take away three key themes that are sure to dominate its hundreds of expected pages.

  1. The customer to be the focus as a human being
  2. New structure to deliver reliable outcomes
  3. Transition to a new, sustainable financial model

The new Act, enforceable duty of care, streamlined assessments and focus on independence and wellness will ensure the customer is treated like a human being – not just as a number.

Backed by a new framework, quality standards and professionalised workforce overseen by the regulator, the system will be restructured to be both reliable and accountable.

Moving to a demand-driven system with independent pricing and new accommodation and care models will ensure the new system is also financially sustainable into the future.

We can also surmise that the Government’s take-up and timeline for the recommendations will be different to the Commissioners.

The Counsel Assisting had outlined an ambitious timetable for the sector to be transformed within five years starting in June and July this year with an evaluation at the 10-year mark.

Commissioner Briggs herself pledged at the Royal Commission’s Newcastle community forum that the recommendations would turn the system “upside-down” within five years.

But as I reported here last week, the Department of Health has labelled the Counsel Assisting’s five-year timeline “challenging” particularly around the home care wait list, workforce, provider readiness, legislation and IT – suggesting a longer timeline would be preferred.

Interesting times ahead.

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