Today represents the practical start to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (RCACQS) where the Commissioners, the Honourable Richard Tracey AM RFD QC and Ms Lynelle Briggs AO, reiterated the terms of reference and outlined the key areas they will report on.
These key areas are:
- Aged care quality and safety
- Access and inclusion
- People with disabilities living in aged care facilities – particularly young people
- Opportunities for reform of the aged care system to meet community expectations
- The future direction of the sector and the pathways required to realise a sustainable and effective aged care system
- How, when and where aged care services need to be delivered to the elderly
We were pleased to hear Commissioners Tracey and Briggs indicate that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a better system of aged care, a future world class care system that is simple, easy, accessible, sustainable and compassionate. It’s a positive approach with better outcomes for our elderly the ultimate goal.
Commissioner Briggs also highlighted that there are aspects of the current system that are already providing the quality of care that the community expects and the Commission is looking to use this as a foundation for overall improvement.
It is clear that the Commission will be focussing on the needs and experiences of consumers of aged care services, their families and friends.
Onus is on providers to support the Commission’s requests for information
Providers have been clearly warned to provide all information requested by the Commission irrespective of contractual and other legal protections. In the event that these mechanisms are relied on, the Commissioners have indicated they will apply their powers under the Royal Commission Act to compel compliance with requests for information.
Providers need to be ready to deliver all that is asked of them in a timely manner. The Commissioners indicated that the Commission is to hand down their final report no later than 30 April 2020, and advised, very clearly, short response times for the provision of information will be normal.
While the Commission has issued “invitations” to provide information, Commissioner Tracey made it clear that where those invitations were not accepted, providers will draw attention to themselves and the compel powers will be applied.
The regulatory framework has altered with the creation and implementation of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Agency from 1 January 2019. Notwithstanding this, the events of the last five years will be fully scrutinised and providers need to be prepared for organisational impacts that this will have from adverse media and reduced market acceptance of services.
The Commissioners advised that the top 100 Approved Providers were invited to provide information by the 7th January 2019 and the balance, comprising 1,882 other Approved Providers were asked to provide information by 8th February 2019. To date 83 have provided the information requested.
Counsel Assisting the Commission includes Mr Peter Gray QC, Dr Timothy McEvoy QC, Ms Eliza Bergin, Mr Paul Bolster, and Ms Brooke Hutchins. Mr Gray and Dr McEvoy discussed the processes and timelines of the Commission and the powers that the Commissioners had. They outlined how the submission process will work and where and approximately when hearings will take place. Recognising the fragility of some witnesses, some submissions will be taken in private with the appropriate support. The first hearing will commence in Adelaide on the 11th of February 2019 which will look at the key features of quality, safety and adequacies of the current system.
Our strong recommendation to approved providers is to:
- Consider next steps needed for you to be prepared for the short notice times for the provision of information that will be required by the Commission
- Prepare for information requests that you may consider are protected by legal professional privilege, privacy laws, contractual arrangements and other mechanisms, as the Commission has made it clear that they have the powers to override these
- If you have not accepted the invitation to complete and submit the information request, we urge you to do so at the earliest possible time. The Commission has made it clear that not accepting their initial invitation will draw attention to you and initiate the compel orders
- Communicate early with your clients and their families on what you are doing and how you are responding to the Commission
- Contact one of our team for further information and support