Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce Editorials

Page last updated: 09 May 2018

12 April 2018

Aged care system needs code of practice to lift quality of life

JOHN POLLAERS, THE AUSTRALIAN April 12, 2018

We have all been reading many awful stories lately about how poor care of our elderly citizens is putting lives at risk and failing us as a nation.

How we care for our elderly is a reflection on us all.

It is clear urgent change is needed so we can be proud of the aged−care system and have confidence our loved ones are receiving the safe, high−quality care we all expect.

The Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce has been instructed by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt to develop a sustainable, comprehensive strategy for the industry to support the workforce and, in so doing, improve the quality life for those in aged care. A critical precondition for transformation is an industry declaration of leadership and commitment to reform. By working together to develop a voluntary, self−regulatory code of practice the industry has the opportunity to take the lead in bringing about much needed change.

From my extensive consultations with consumers, employees and providers, it is evident there are serious gaps in care and some providers are falling behind consumer and community expectations.

Unfortunately, the terrible cases we witness in the media cast a shadow over the many progressive operators providing quality care. The good news is many in the industry have indicated they want to be recognised for the great care they provide and not tainted by those who do not share their commitment to excellence.

We need to build trust in our aged−care workforce by improving education and training. We also need a shift in attitude, with the industry taking the lead and showing the community what good care looks like. This includes viewing residential facilities as a person's home, not simply a place for impersonal, clinical care.

We must not forget the duty the community and all tiers of government have in shifting attitudes and recognising the essential role the aged−care workforce plays.

Given Australia's demographics, it is arguably our most important workforce. The government and community need to give our aged−care workforce the support and funding it needs so it can support us. So what should a code of practice cover? A code needs to include guiding principles as well as practical, measurable leadership commitments.

The guiding principles for the aged−care sector need to articulate the vision we should all share for aged care — that it should be about those in care and their families, of high quality and include practices that will attract and retain the excellent staff we need. We want the residents to live well, to enjoy efficient integrated care, and we want to see top−level board governance along with the highest levels of industry−benchmarked education and training accreditation.

Aged−care providers and co−operation, peak bodies that sign up to the code would be obliged to follow best practice in areas such as industry research and workforce development.

This agreed vision for the industry hopefully will give consumers confidence and the recognition the workforce deserves. This voluntary aged−care industry code of practice will drive lasting improvements in the quality and consistency of care: It is a fragmented industry — here's the chance to stand up and show leadership in developing shared strategies that will help us all celebrate the journey of ageing.

We are looking for transformational change and an aged−care sector this country can be proud of, and is seen for what it actually is: a significant contributor to economic progress and our social fabric.

John Pollaers is chairman of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce