Stronger Quality Standards equals a new grading system for compliance

Last updated on 10 May 2024

Under the new Aged Care Quality Standards, providers will be graded across four levels of compliance or non-compliance. [Shutterstock]

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission continues to inform aged care providers about the strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards, explaining how providers will be graded for compliance – or non-compliance – in their latest video.

  • The strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards will come into effect alongside the new Aged Care Act
  • There are seven Standards under the revised and strengthened system, with Standard 1 ‘The Person’ the focal point
  • With no set date for the new Aged Care Act’s implementation, the Commission is sharing resources to better prepare and support the sector for upcoming changes

In the third episode of the Commission’s Up to Standard series, Lisa Peterson, Assistant Commissioner for Sector Capability and Regulatory Strategy, touched on key updates like the move to graded assessment. 

But first, Ms Peterson highlighted the key differences between the current Quality Standards and the draft strengthened Quality Standards.    

“Under the current arrangements, we have eight Standards with 42 requirements. We are moving to seven Standards, 33 outcomes and 146 actions. This might sound daunting, however, the actions that will apply to you will depend on the circumstances of your service and the needs of the people that you care for,” she said.

“Among the main changes is greater focus and additional requirements in five key areas as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. These include diversity, dementia care, clinical care, provider governance and food and nutrition.”

Ms Peterson referenced the Strengthened Quality Standards Framework Analysis as useful additional reading for anyone interested in a deeper dive.

Meanwhile, as alluded to above, concerns over how providers are assessed against the strengthened Standards have been common. It’s understandable as change brings uncertainty, especially in a sector where compliance and non-compliance can notably impact providers.

“We will use a graded assessment at the outcome level and at the Standard level of each strengthened Standard when evaluating provider performance,” Ms Petersen added. 

“Graded assessment is designed to provide greater transparency to older people and the sector about provider performance. It also aims to promote continuous improvement. ”

Aged care providers will be assessed against one of the four following gradings: 

  1. Conformance: The Commission is satisfied with performance against the Standards
  2. Minor non-conformance: Opportunities for improvement or gaps in compliance are identified in the provider’s systems and processes that are not systemic. There is no high risk to older people
  3. Major non-conformance: Where gaps in provider systems are deemed systemic and the Commission sees issues that create high risks for the care of older people
  4. Exceeding: While this is still a work in progress, the Commission views this as a grading for providers who have not only achieved conformance against all the standards but have also met some additional criteria

It’s currently unclear what that additional criteria is, and whether it will be explicitly listed as something for providers to aim for. 

Additionally, how a provider responds to minor or major non-conformance will inform the Commission’s regulatory action.

Lastly, Ms Petersen answered the burning question of why the Standards have been released before the Aged Care Act is completed. And with the Aged Care Act yet to be finalised following the exposure draft’s release, providers have been considering whether additional changes to the Standards will also occur. 

She said extensive public consultation on the strengthened Standards that began in 2021 makes it unlikely that major changes will occur. The Standards are also being translated into law under the new Aged Care Act, meaning that major change would disrupt the process further.

“The Department of Health and Aged Care has released what we think is the final draft of the strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards to assist the aged care aged care sector to prepare for implementation,” she said.

“As this drafting process continues, there might be some minor wording adjustments to make sure that the standards are consistent with the legislation.”

Because of the connection between the Act and Standards, the new Act has to be in place before the Standards can commence, concluded Ms Petersen.

Providers with any questions about the Standards can contact the Commission via [email protected].

aged care reform
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
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Lisa Peterson
Up to Standard