Delivering the aged care system that older Australians deserve

Providers are the first to recognise that they need the right mix of people to drive the continuous improvement processes required to deliver high quality care and services.

Amendments made in late 2022 to the Aged Care Act 1997 and Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Act 2018 strengthened the governance arrangements of approved providers.

The changes provide a clear pathway to securing a better future for older Australians by valuing independence, expertise and diversity in those holding governance roles.

This strengthening of governance is being implemented over a 12-month period, with some changes already in effect and more to commence on 1 December 2023.

Currently all approved providers must:

■ assess the suitability of key personnel at least once a year
■ submit material changes, including key personnel notifications, within 14 days, to the Commission
■ submit annual provider operational reports to the Department of Health and Aged Care.

From 1 December 2023, providers approved before 1 December 2022 must also:

■ ensure that their governing body is made up of a majority of independent non-executive members who have a mix of skills and experience, and that at least one member has experience in providing clinical care
■ set up and continue a quality care advisory body
■ annually offer to set up at least one consumer advisory body
■ prioritise older Australians (not the holding company) if the organisation is a wholly owned subsidiary.

Governing bodies have ultimate responsibility for and influence over the care and services provided to older people.

A board member or members with clinical experience will have an important contribution to make to the governing body’s consideration of and decisions about clinical aspects of care.

When appointing someone who meets this requirement, the most important element to consider is whether the individual has clinical qualifications and experience relevant to the types of care and services that a provider delivers.

The legislation does not specify who qualifies as an independent non-executive member. Each organisation needs to consider the independence of proposed members and whether the person’s interests, positions and relationships enable them to bring independent judgement to issues considered by the governing body.

Providers preparing to fulfil governance obligations that apply to them from December 2023 should be well-progressed in reviewing and amending their policies, procedures and arrangements as appropriate.

These preparations should include development of a communications plan to enable those receiving aged care to understand and participate in what is happening.

This is particularly important in relation to the obligation for providers to offer their consumers the option of establishing a consumer advisory body.

Consumer advisory bodies not only give older Australians a voice in the design of their care, but also provide valuable feedback to governing bodies. Successful providers use this information to implement changes in care arrangements that matter to those receiving it.

To support providers in undertaking work to prepare for the changes, the Commission has made available to all providers, and will continue to build on:

■ online resources such as guidance materials, fact sheets, videos and posters
■ enrolment for senior executives and board members in the Governing for Reform in Aged Care program
■ online learning programs through the Aged Care Learning Information Solution (ALIS)
■ webinars on key reform measures to have their questions answered.

The aged care sector’s reform journey is now well underway. Central to our collective success in translating the new provisions into improved experiences of care will be the close attention we pay to understanding what is required to manage, implement and embed these changes to deliver high quality care and services for every care recipient.

I encourage you to stay in touch with the Commission’s updates on the reforms, including new resources and activities, by regularly visiting our website and subscribing to the monthly Aged Care Quality Bulletin.

Janet Anderson PSM,
Commissioner, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission 

This article originally appeared on Aged Care Today Spring 2023 edition