7 November 2021
I write regarding articles on the aged care Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) syndicated across a number of News Corporation publications on 7 November 2021.
Serious incidents affecting aged care residents have been reportable under legislated requirements introduced from April this year.
It is disappointing that misleading information on the SIRS has been included in articles appearing today in your publications. Such reports undermine the community’s trust and confidence in the major reforms being implemented to drive improved safety and quality in aged care.
The community expects older Australians to be cared for respectfully, safely and with dignity. It is always concerning to find an older Australian in residential care who has had an experience that negatively impacted their health, wellbeing or safety - whether that impact was mild or more significant.
The SIRS aims to prevent and reduce the risk and occurrence of incidents of abuse and neglect in residential aged care. Under the SIRS, all aged care providers must have policies, trained staff and processes in place (that is, a system of care) to effectively manage and mitigate the risks that come with providing care to older Australians. When an incident occurs, aged care providers are expected to respond as quickly as necessary to minimise harm to the affected person and any others. Steps must also be taken to prevent the incident from happening again.
There are eight types of serious incidents that must be notified to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Reportable incidents include alleged and suspected incidents, as well as known incidents. The most serious incidents constitute a smaller proportion of the total and the Commission encourages aged care providers to report all serious or potentially serious incidents.
Any incident that may involve criminal action - which represent a small subset of the notifications made to the Commission - must also be reported to the police by the provider. It is the role of police and courts to investigate crimes and prosecute offenders.
The Commission reviews all incident notifications within 24 hours of receipt and will take action if it is determined that there is an ongoing risk of harm to residents and/or the aged care provider has not dealt with the incident appropriately. This may include urgently seeking further information from the provider, requiring the provider to take action and report back to the Commission within a specified timeframe, and/or initiating our own investigation. Depending on the outcomes of these steps, further regulatory action may be taken.
In some instances, no evidence is found that an alleged or suspected incident actually occurred. In many cases where a serious incident is reported, the aged care provider has already dealt effectively with the incident - taking all necessary steps to address any issues for the person concerned and commencing the process of implementing any changes required to current practices to prevent the incident from happening again.
Use of inflammatory language to characterise the alleged, suspected and known serious incidents reported to the Commission is irresponsible and misleading. As has been the situation in the Australian health system for the last two decades, each serious incident reported in an aged care setting must be understood in terms of the specific details about what happened, how and why it happened, and what the aged care provider did immediately and is doing following the incident to minimise its impact and ensure it does not reoccur.
In relation to statements made in the articles about access to information on aged care services, such information is readily available on the MyAgedCare website, the Australian Government’s website for those looking to access government-funded aged care services. Every provider listed on this site is regulated by the Commission and the regulatory actions we take are reflected in compliance ratings of services published on the website.
Performance assessment reports for individual services are published on the Commission’s website and may also be a useful reference point for those looking for aged care services.
The Commission publishes SIRS Insights reports to promote transparency, inform discussion and influence provider behaviour by driving continuous improvement in the delivery of quality and safe aged care. The first Insights report was published in June 2021 and the next report is due to be published in November 2021. The Commission’s quarterly Sector Performance Reports will include information about the SIRS, commencing in the July–September 2021 report. The Sector Performance Report is usually published approximately two months after the end of the reporting period.
If anyone has a concern about the care and services being provided at an aged care service, they should contact the Commission by telephone on 1800 951 822 or via our website at: agedcarequality.gov.au
Janet Anderson PSM
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission