The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and this winter presents ongoing challenges to safeguard your aged care consumers and workers. Precautionary measures are available and should be prioritised, including ensuring up-to-date vaccination for both consumers and staff against COVID-19 and influenza. Reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalisation or even death is in everyone’s interests, and providers are reminded of your obligations under the Aged Care Quality Standards to ensure timely access to vaccine and effective infection prevention and control to protect older people in your care.
The Department of Health and Aged Care is continuing its series of free webinars to help providers be ready for and respond to an influenza outbreak alongside the continuing threat of COVID-19. The second winter preparedness webinar, which focused on response, is now available to watch on demand. Well-rehearsed decisions and actions taken without delay during the response phase of an outbreak, based on preparations made during your readiness phase, will ensure that your service can address any outbreaks early and lessen the potential impacts.
Also, to make it easier for providers to contact the Commission and obtain relevant information, we have recently updated our ‘Contact us’ webpage. You can read more about this in this edition.
Incident management system essential element #5 – Implement actions
An incident management system (IMS) is an important element of effective clinical governance for all aged care providers.
There are 6 essential elements to an effective IMS and in this next article in our series, we look at the fifth element that residential aged care and home care providers must demonstrate.
IMS essential element #5 – Implement actions
When an incident occurs, you will need to consider and take all reasonable actions to prevent or minimise the risk of the same or similar incidents recurring.
Whenever an incident occurs, you should consider whether it could have been prevented, or the impact lessened, if you or your staff had taken some action. You should also consider if the incident presents ongoing risks to consumers, visitors, staff or others.
When considering what actions you should take to respond to an incident, ask yourself:
- What were the factors that led to the incident?
- What could we have done to prevent or limit these factors?
- How will we know that a change is an improvement?
- What changes can we make that will result in continued improvement?
Keep in mind that consumers’ views on these questions may contribute unique insights.
Possible actions you may take could include:
- providing or mandating individual, group and/or service-wide staff training or re-training
- making changes to your organisational or clinical governance frameworks
- reviewing and updating your service’s practices and procedures or developing new procedures to support staff to manage emerging risks and issues
- making changes to the service environment or equipment used
- taking actions to promote a safety culture in care
- making additional staff available to help consumers with certain activities
- seeking specialist assistance and/or implementing alternative strategies to manage consumer behaviours.
Depending on the circumstances of the incident, it may also be appropriate to take staff disciplinary action. This may include ongoing performance management, implementing a probationary period, standing down a staff member pending an investigation or terminating employment.
As an aged care provider, you are responsible for ensuring that all necessary actions are taken, and updates on progress and outcomes are given to impacted residents, families, staff and service providers.
Read our ‘Effective incident management systems: Best practice guidance’ for detailed information about how you can develop and embed an IMS in your service.
It’s now easier to contact the Commission
The Commission receives more than 80,000 pieces of communication each year via phone, email, post and the contact forms on our website. Communication with aged care consumers, families and aged care services is a very important part of our business and we want to make it easy and simple for anyone to contact the Commission.
We’ve recently improved the contact forms on our website. The new forms are available on our ‘Contact us’ webpage and start with the simple question: ‘How can we help you?’ There are a range of options to guide users to the help they need. You can make a complaint, an enquiry, order a publication or request more information using these forms.
We have streamlined the process for lodging a complaint about a service provider or about the Commission by creating a single ‘I want to make a complaint’ form. This form captures all the essential information we need to progress a complaint.
These changes have been introduced following consultation with older Australians, their carers and service providers. We expect that these changes will make it easier for people to connect with us and help us to respond more quickly.
Recent updates to the Serious Incident Reporting Scheme reporting form
On 27 June, improvements were made to the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) online reporting form found in the My Aged Care Service Provider Portal, which is being renamed as the My Aged Care Service and Support Portal.
These improvements will give residential aged care providers the ability to:
- identify more than one subject of an allegation
- provide sub-contractor details where appropriate
- provide detail about which other bodies the incident has been reported to and when
- provide reasoning to support the assessment of the level of harm in relation to psychological impact and details of injury.
A number of other changes have also been made to the My Aged Care system. A full summary of the updates is available on the Department of Health and Aged Care website.
The information collected through the SIRS reports benefits aged care residents by driving improvement at a sector and service level to reduce the number of preventable serious incidents.
Residential aged care providers must include descriptive and accurate details in their SIRS reports. This enables the Commission to assess the risk and impact of the reportable incident on the resident, identify whether the provider has appropriately responded to the incident, and whether the provider has an effective incident management system in place.
It is important to appreciate that the information collected about serious incidents in local IMSs and through the SIRS reports to the Commission benefits all aged care residents. Individual residential services are expected to use their own information to drive down the risk of preventable serious incidents to their residents. The Commission’s use of the information is aimed at reducing avoidable risks at both service and sector-wide levels.
For incidents involving unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct, the Commission considers these incidents to be Priority 1 reportable incidents that must be notified to the Commission within 24 hours. Where an incident involves actual, suspected or alleged unlawful sexual contact, this must also be immediately reported to the police. If in doubt, contact the police. You must also take action to ensure that appropriate support is provided to the affected consumer and their family. Updates are being made in July to our SIRS decision support tool and other guidance to reflect this.