The new Aged Care facility star rating is here. So what’s it all about?

Australia’s new star rating system for aged care facilities launched in December 22 and after its first month in operation it’s already proving to be a controversial new program.

Every aged care facility now has a rating of 1-5 applied, described as follows:

  1. Significant improvement needed (Facility is well below standard)
  2. Improvement needed (Facility is below standard)
  3. Acceptable (Facility is at standard or has a current continuous improvement plan in place)
  4. Good (Facility is operating above standard)
  5. Excellent (Facility is operating well above standard)

Criteria used to assess the ratings include Regulatory Compliance, Care minutes provided, Resident’s experiences and results from quality reporting.  

It’s already proving to be controversial….

While the idea of applying a rating to every facility in Australia sounds like a good idea in theory, concerns have already been raised about the way information is being collected and evaluated. Union figures have expressed surprise that 91% of providers have rated 3 stars and above, especially at a time where many facilities are incredibly short staffed and under resourced. Dietitians Australia have also indicated concerns that the star ratings haven’t gone far enough to examine nutrition, with the only food-related criteria currently being a question in the resident satisfaction survey: “Do you like the food here?”. There are currently no other food or nutrition criteria included. 

Facilities have raised concerns with the way the star ratings affect facilities with prior issues that have since been resolved. Articles in the press naming and shaming 1 and 2 star facilities have been met with anger from their management teams, with many stating that the issues causing their low rating are ‘historical’ and that their star rating no longer accurately reflected their performance levels. Others have pointed out that in order to achieve a 5 star rating, a facility must have had no compliance issues at all for the last 3 years, again raising concerns about prior issues affecting current ratings.

Facilities are also concerned that 3 star ratings aren’t being viewed positively enough. There’s concern that in the heavily regulated aged care industry, a 3 star rating (at standard) can be considered to be a considerable achievement, yet a population who’s used to seeing businesses and products with 4.5 and 5 star ratings may not view a 3 star rating as positively as they should and that more should be done to promote a 3 star rating as a ‘positive’ outcome.

The resident satisfaction rating has also had some concerns raised around the accuracy of the data provided. The questionnaire is only performed every 12 months, and in higher turnover facilities that information will quickly fall out of date. Facilities have highlighted concerns with residents or families potentially using the questionnaire maliciously if they feel unjustly slighted. However, given that only 10% of the residents need to be interviewed and also given that the interviewees are chosen by the facility themselves, others have raised concerns that it’s actually more likely that the residents chosen will be those most likely to provide positive responses, thus skewing the data.

But there’s some positives too

However, teething issues aside, there is a lot to be said in support of the new rating system. The old adage ‘you can’t fix what you can’t measure’ definitely comes into play here. When assessments are uniformly and consistently applied and then regularly released into the public, poor quality providers should be more quickly identified and rectification measures applied.  

While some adjustments will undoubtedly be made as the system finds its feet, it does look like it’s been a positive move forward. Those wanting to find out more about the star ratings system can do so via the My Aged Care website here.

So how does it affect me? (Not much actually)

While the system is no doubt a useful tool for anyone wanting to choose a facility for themselves or their loved ones, it’s also important to know that a facility’s rating should actually play a very small part in your placement decision.

Choosing the right facility for yourself or your loved one is a complex process, and what works for one person may not work for another. When poor placement choices are made, residents move to multiple facilities before they find the right fit for themselves. Each move causes more and more stress and each failed placement increases their resistance to residential care.

Some of the least successful placements we’ve seen have come about because a decision has been made based on word of mouth – placing your loved one in a facility with their friends, or where one of your friends have placed their parents. Unfortunately, word of mouth is a much poorer recommendation for aged care placement than it is for a consumer item like a car or TV, and while the person who referred you may be happy, there’s little certainty that the same will happen for you.

When we recommend a placement, it’s after a great deal of research, both into the person / family in question and the facility we recommend them to. Everybody’s situation is unique to them and finding the right solution for each and every case is what we do best. It’s also one of key the reasons that we never mention any facilities by name in any of our promotional or educational material. We never want anyone to make the wrong decision based on what has worked for someone else.

The aged care star rating system, although useful, unfortunately has the capacity to be just as problematic as word of mouth referrals. While they do provide valuable insight into a facility’s quality, other factors must be given more weight. Your loved one may be far happier in a 4 or even 3 star facility than a 5 star one when concerns like proximity to family, resident demographics, and lifestyle preferences are all taken into account.

In conclusion…

While the aged care rating system should be considered when evaluating facilities, we strongly discourage families from putting too much emphasis on a facility’s rating as a deciding factor. And, of course, whether you’re searching for the right service to future-proof against your specific circumstances, you require an immediate care solution, or require a change to your existing care needs, we at Well Placed Care offer information and support that is informed, current, accurate, unbiased, completely independent and uniquely suited to your specific requirements. When the need arises, we’re right here.

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