Australian nursing homes would need an extra $621m a year to achieve highest quality

Small-sized state government-run nursing homes provide the best quality, according to ground-breaking new research released by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety today.

Conducted by the University of Queensland, the research found it would cost an additional $621 million each year to make improvements so all of Australia’s aged care homes reach the current best quality level.

The research used detailed financial data, a comprehensive set of quality care indicators for aged care homes, and a measure of relative care needs, developed by the University of Wollongong.

Tellingly, the quality indicator data uncovered that aged care homes fall into three quality groups – 11% in the best group, 78% in the middle and 11% in the worst group.

The best quality homes met all accreditation standards, had lower use of high-risk medicines, experienced fewer issues and complaints and achieved a higher customer experience rating.

The nursing homes most likely to be in the best quality group were small-sized or government-owned homes.

The best quality group contained 41% of homes with 1-15 beds, but just 17% of homes with 31-60 beds and only 5% of homes with 61-120 beds.

The best quality group contained 24% of government-owned homes, 13% of not-for-profit homes and just 4% of for-profit homes.

The research estimated it would cost about $3.2 billion per year for all aged care homes to improve their quality and operate under a small-sized home model.

Royal Commissioners Tony Pagone QC and Ms Lynelle Briggs AO said the research showed higher funding was needed for residential aged care if it is to meet basic standards. Additionally, even more funding would be required to make the necessary reforms to achieve high-quality care in Australia, the Commissioners said.

They noted that focusing on quality improvement rather than minimising costs would trigger wider benefits, with better care and quality of life for residents potentially reducing the need for hospitalisations, spending on high-risk medicines, and slashing workplace injuries and accidents in aged care homes.

“Australians expect that all are entitled to the best quality level of care in aged care homes,” Commissioners said.

“Additional funding will be needed to enable providers to meet those expectations consistently.”

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