This page details the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) for aged care providers. For information on SIRS for aged care consumers please visit the SIRS consumer information page.
What is the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS)?
The Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) is an initiative to help prevent and reduce incidents of abuse and neglect in residential aged care services subsidised by the Australian Government. The SIRS sets new arrangements for approved providers of residential aged care and flexible care delivered in a residential setting to manage and take reasonable action to prevent incidents with a focus on the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of aged care consumers.
Approved providers must have an effective incident management system in place and to use this to continuously improve the management and prevention of incidents. In addition to the obligation to manage and prevent incidents through their IMS, providers must notify the Commission when eight types of reportable incidents occur. Reportable incidents must be reported within set timeframes depending on the level of impact to the care recipient. See ‘How does the SIRS work?’ section below for more details.
Providers must report incidents on the new SIRS tile on the My Aged Care Provider Portal. Information about using the My Aged Care Provider Portal can be found by visiting the resources page on the Department of Health website.
Why is the SIRS important?
All Australians have a right to live free from abuse and neglect. This is a human right, current law, and a reasonable community expectation. Older people also have specific rights when receiving government-subsidised aged care services.
The SIRS aims to:
- strengthen aged care systems to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect
- build providers’ skills so they can better respond to serious incidents
- enable providers to review incident information to drive improvements in quality and safety
- reduce the likelihood of preventable incidents from reoccurring
- ensure people receiving aged care have the support they need.
How does the SIRS work?
The SIRS has 2 key components:
- incident management obligations
- reportable incident obligations.
Incident management obligations
The SIRS requires every residential aged care service to have in place an effective incident management system – a set of protocols, processes, and standard operating procedures that staff are trained to use. This means adopting a systematic approach to minimise the risk of and respond to, incidents that occur in a residential care setting. An incident management system is vital in supporting residential age care services to effectively manage risks to their consumers, visitors and staff.
Reportable incident obligations
There are 8 types of reportable incidents involving aged care consumers that must be reported to the Commission, and the police where the incident is of a criminal nature.
What is a reportable incident?
Under the SIRS, there are 8 types of reportable incidents:
- Unreasonable use of force – for example, hitting, pushing, shoving, or rough handling.
- Unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct – such as sexual threats or stalking, or sexual activities without consent.
- Psychological or emotional abuse – such as yelling, name calling, ignoring a consumer, threatening gestures, or refusing a consumer access to care or services as a means of punishment.
- Unexpected death – where poor quality clinical care is provided to a consumer resulting in their death, or where the actions of a consumer result in the death of another consumer.
- Stealing or financial coercion by a staff member – for example, where a staff member coerces a consumer to change their will to their advantage, or steals valuables from the consumer.
- Neglect – for example, withholding personal care, untreated wounds, or insufficient assistance during meals.
- Inappropriate physical or chemical restraint – where physical or chemical restraint is used without prior consent or without notifying the consumer’s representative as soon as practicable; where physical restraint is used in a non-emergency situation; or when a provider issues a drug to a consumer to influence their behaviour as a form of chemical restraint.
- Unexplained absence from care – where the consumer is absent from the service without explanation and there are reasonable grounds to report the absence to the police.
The Commission must be notified of all reportable incidents. This includes incidents that occur, or are alleged or suspected to have occurred, and includes incidents involving a care recipient with cognitive or mental impairment (such as dementia).
Incidents that do not result from one of these reportable incident types should not be reported to the Commission, however depending on the circumstances they may need to be reported to another government body. Approved providers should consider their local regulatory environment when determining whether such an incident must be reported and to whom.
All incidents that occur in the provision of care, whether reportable or non-reportable, must be managed in line with a service’s incident management system.
If a reportable incident occurs or is alleged or suspected to have occurred, the provider must immediately work to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those involved. The approved provider must classify the incident as Priority 1 or Priority 2 based on the incident type and the impact of the incident on the consumer. The priority of the incident determines when it must be reported to the Commission.
Priority 1 reportable incidents
‘Priority 1’ reportable incidents must be reported to the Commission within 24 hours of becoming aware of the incident.
Priority 1 reportable incidents are reportable incidents:
- That have caused or could reasonably have been expected to cause a consumer physical or psychological injury or discomfort requiring medical or psychological treatment to resolve, or
- Where there are reasonable grounds to contact the police, or
- That is the unexpected death of a consumer or a consumer’s unexplained absence from the service.
Priority 2 reportable incidents
'Priority 2’ reportable incidents are any reportable incidents that do not meet the criteria for a ‘Priority 1’ reportable incident.
Currently, Priority 2 reportable incidents should not be reported to the Commission. From 1 October 2021, providers will need to report Priority 2 reportable incidents to the Commission within 30 days of becoming aware.
How do I report an incident?
Providers must report incidents using the SIRS tile on the My Aged Care Provider Portal. Providers should make sure enough staff have access to the portal to submit reports on time. For information on accessing the My Aged Care Provider Portal, including easy-to-use guides, visit the Department of Health website.
When did the SIRS commence?
The SIRS commenced on 1 April 2021.
Providers of residential aged care must have in place an effective incident management system and are required to report all ‘Priority 1’ reportable incidents to the Commission within 24 hours of becoming aware of the incident.
From 1 October 2021, residential aged care providers will also be required to report all ‘Priority 2’ reportable incidents to the Commission within 30 days of becoming aware of the incident.
The role of the Commission under the SIRS
The Commission is responsible for administering the SIRS and receives serious incident notices from aged care providers. The Commission has the power to take regulatory action(s) where appropriate to address non-compliance with provider responsibilities and has new powers to issue compliance notices for suspected non-compliance with SIRS obligations.
The Commission will publish information regularly on the operation of the SIRS, and this information will be expanded over time.
Guidance material for aged care providers
Serious Incident Response Scheme: Guidelines for residential aged care providers
Guidelines for residential aged care providers describes the responsibilities of providers in relation to the SIRS. It includes information on:
- the requirements relating to incident management, response, and prevention
- the types of reportable incidents that must be notified to the Commission
- the requirements for making a notification, including what must be notified and when
- the role of the Commission in managing reports and ensuring providers are notifying and responding to reportable incidents.
Effective incident management systems: Best practice guidance
This guidance provides information for providers to help them to develop and embed a best practice incident management system which enables them to respond to and manage specific incidents and near misses by assessing:
- what happened
- how and why it happened
- what can be done to reduce the risk of recurrence and support safer care
- what was learned
- how the learning can be shared.
This is a series of reports drawing on information from serious incident notifications of the SIRS. We encourage providers to examine their own reporting patterns and arrangements in comparison with sector averages.
Provider roundtable summary
We hosted a virtual provider roundtable on 9 June 2021. This document provides a summary of the key issues, ideas and comments that emerged from this event.
The SIRS relates to other requirements aged care providers must meet
The SIRS sits alongside, and complements, other requirements that aged care providers must meet.
All providers must comply with the Aged Care Quality Standards which detail the standards of care a person can expect as an aged care consumer. For example:
- Standard 8: Organisational governance requires approved providers to have in place effective risk management systems and practices that enable them (among other things) to manage high-impact risks associated with the care of consumers, and to identify and respond to abuse and neglect of consumers.
- Standard 6: Feedback and complaints requires approved providers to demonstrate (among other things) that an open disclosure process is used when things go wrong in providing care for consumers.
A provider is also legally required to help consumers understand their rights under the Charter of Aged Care Rights.
Taken together, the above requirements reinforce effective incident management.
Visit our dedicated SIRS provider resources page.
If you have an enquiry about the SIRS, you can: