Data about complaints made to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner will soon be published on a quarterly basis, but providers say the information that is shared needs to be more conducive to quality improvement.
The Commissioner has confirmed it will be collating and publishing data from the complaints it receives each quarter on its website and expects this to commence as early as late January.
The information published will include a breakdown by state and type of care similar to that included in its first annual report as a stand-alone body in the 2015/16 financial year.
While specifics about complaints were not made available, the nature of complaints were categorised by general topic such as personal care, clinical care, medication management, choice and dignity, fees, other financial concerns and communication.
Overall, there is strong support from the industry for the complaints data to be made available more frequently than once a year, however, concerns have been raised that the information being shared is not constructive and will not enable industry to address common underlying causes of concern.
“Providers recognise that an independent complaints scheme is an important part of the consumer protection framework,” Cameron O’Reilly, CEO of the Aged Care Guild said.
“That said, it is true that to simply publish a quarterly list of broad topics will do little to inform both providers and consumers about where there may be scope for improvements or innovation,” he said.
A spokesperson for Queensland provider, BallyCara, said more detail should be provided around what outcome the complaint relates to, the root cause of the complaint and whether the complaint has been resolved.
“Simply highlighting the number of complaints, general topic and state in which the complaint occurred is not constructive for providers to improve services or for consumers to see that problems are being resolved.”
“We are not suggesting that full complaint detail be made public, but information relating to the root cause of the complaint, whether it was resolved, what action was taken and if the complainant’s expectations have been met would be more constructive than the current data shared,” she said.
LASA CEO Sean Rooney said LASA has a good working relationship with the office of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and conducts periodic discussions to explore emerging issues and trends.
When asked if she is concerned about several new websites that seek consumer ratings and comments about aged care service providers, the Complaints Commissioner, Rae Lamb, said the Commissioner’s role is really to help people whose concerns aren’t being resolved through other channels.
“People can and will raise their concerns wherever they choose to. I don’t think it undermines our role but I do urge people to consider raising concerns with services in the first instance, if they can.”
“This provides the best chance of having the matter quickly resolved. If that doesn’t work, or people don’t feel able to approach the service, then we are here to help. We are independent, free and impartial,” she said.
If complaints expose systemic failings in the care and services of people receiving Australian Government funded aged care, then the Complaints Commissioner can refer those complaints to the Quality Agency.
The Commissioner’s first annual report revealed that 5223 complaints had been made to the Government body between 1 January and 30 June 2016.
The majority were from NSW and Victoria, the two states with the highest number of aged care recipients.
During this period the most common issues complained about in residential care related to clinical care, medication administration, continence management and personal choice and dignity.
Complaints about home care services including CHSP mostly related to fees, other financial concerns and communication.
Significantly fewer complaints were reported between 1 July and 30 September – 1,202 that fell within the Commissioner’s mandate, with 80 per cent relating to residential care.
The main issues concerned health care, consultation and communication and personal care.
Data for the October to December 2016 period is expected to be available later this month.