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Medication issues top complaints in residential care

More than three-quarters of complaints to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner concerned the residential sector last year, with complaints overall increasing by 20 per cent on the previous year, according to the commissioner’s annual report released this week.

The 2016-17 annual report from independent Aged Care Complaints Commissioner Rae Lamb covers the first full year since the commissioner took over the functions of the Department’s former Aged Care Complaints Scheme in January 2016.

The commissioner and her team received 4,713 complaints over the year, a 20 per cent increase from 3,936 made the previous year.

Of those, 60 per cent of complaints came from family members or representatives of people receiving care (2,838 complaints), 19 per cent were from people receiving care (873) while the remaining 21 per cent of complaints came from anonymous sources.

Residential care was the subject of 78 per cent of complaints this year down from 82 per cent last year. At the same time, the number of complaints for the residential sector increased to 3,656 this year, up from 3,211.

The most common complaints about residential care concerned medication administration and management (559), falls prevention and post-fall management (382), and personal and oral hygiene (365), according to the report.

Rae Lamb

Ms Lamb said the rise in complaints did not show deteriorating standards of care.

“Certainly we see instances where care has been very poor, and there are still people who should complain who don’t,” she said.

“Nonetheless the number of complaints has to be balanced against the fact that more than one million people receive aged care. Plus we have been doing a great deal of work to raise our profile.”

The commissioner and her team finalised 4,617 complaints in the period, an increase of 16 per cent from the 3,989 finalised in the previous year. This year 3,437 complaints were finalised within 30 days and 4,299 within 90 days, the report shows.

Early resolution was achieved for 92 per cent or 4,228 of finalised complaints, an increase of 25 per cent from the previous year, the report shows.

Overall, there were 11,007 contacts made over the year, 10 per cent up from 10,050 in 2015-16.

The report includes real-life case studies of how complaints improve people’s care and feedback from consumers and service providers.

It also highlights other areas of the commissioner’s work, such as education for service providers.

“This year I challenged the industry to talk more about complaints and what they do about them,” Ms Lamb said.

“Complaints are a normal part of providing care and services. People need to know it’s okay to complain and that when things go wrong, making a complaint can lead to improved care.

“Greater transparency about complaints will increase consumer confidence.”

The report is available here

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