Rude, obnoxious, poor knowledge: quality assessors determined to find non-compliance, survey of facility managers says

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Despite visits rarely resulting in sanctions, the assessment process is often stressful, labour-intensive, confusing and misguided for aged care homes and their staff thanks to aggressive or poorly informed quality assessors according to a new survey.

The survey – by aged care governance firm CompliSpace – looked at the impact of the new Aged Care Quality Standards on aged care homes since they commenced on 1 July 2019 using responses from 154 participants from over 250 aged care service providers between 30 June 30 and 10 July 2020.

Its findings show that reaccreditation by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissions (ACQSC) under the new Standards is proving a real challenge. Of the 33% of aged care homes that had undertaken reaccreditation in the past year, 41% of managers said the experience was harder than previous accreditations.

Respondents pointed to a range of issues including poor communication and timeframes from assessors; assessors making incorrect assessments that were later overturned; being rude, obnoxious and generally having poor knowledge; using inconsistent and unclear methodologies; and appearing to have an agenda to find non-compliance.

“They do not give information in a timely manner that allows staff to respond to issues at the time. It is very disillusioning to think that your audit was successful, and then to receive a report advising of an unmet standard,” one manager wrote.

“The auditors had to be redirected and questioned on their approach throughout the visit,” another wrote. “Complaint raised with the Commission regarding the use of leading questions with clients and the assessors’ obvious lack of understanding about dealing with cognitively impaired residents.”

“One surveyor was determined to find non-compliance and that really impacted staff morale,” said another. “We were really stressed by the end of that visit! Two further unannounced visits, still all met.”

Only two comments were positive about the assessment process.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, respondents were far more concerned about unannounced visits from assessors (60%) than the Royal Commission (27%) or even meeting mandatory reporting requirements (18%).

The report – which also found higher workloads and stress levels due to the new Standards – recommends a comprehensive, independent review of the impact of the Standards on aged care homes and consumers be done as soon as possible.

Will that review include an evaluation of quality assessors’ training and processes?