Government-run and not-for-profit aged care facilities performed best, research shows

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People in not-for-profit aged care facilities received the least antipsychotic medication and were less likely to experience a high sedative load, while for-profit homes had lower chronic opioid use.

Overall, government-run facilities had the best average results, extensive research on the quality of aged care facilities has found.

The report is the most comprehensive look at quality indicators in aged care in Australia.Credit:Louise Kennerley

The report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety used more than 50 quality indicators to compare not-for-profit, for-profit and government-run facilities.

The most detailed research on the quality of residential aged care in Australia found there were “significant differences” between different types of residential care homes.

As of the end of June 2019, there were 873 organisations providing residential aged care through 2717 facilities, with places for more than 213,000 people.

About 57 per cent (1558) of these are run by not-for-profits, 34 per cent (922) are run by for-profit companies and 9 per cent (237) are operated by the government.

The 50 indicators include pressure sores, malnutrition and premature death, the use of drugs and restraints, healthcare or personal-care complaints, food quality, safety and staff competence.

Government-run facilities had the best average results for 31 of those criteria, while not-for-profits performed better on two, and for-profits did best on one.

Not-for-profits also outperformed private facilities on 25 indicators, while private facilities had stronger average results on two.

One in every 4.5 not-for-profit residents was given antipsychotic medication on average, compared to one in every 4.3 and one in every 4.1 in private and government facilities respectively. An average of one in every 3.6 residents in private facilities were chronic opioid users compared to one in every 3.4 in not-for-profit, and one in every three in government-run facilities.

Government facilities fared best during unannounced visits in 2018-2019. Of the 195 facilities visited, 13 per cent (26) failed to comply with accreditation standards.

At not-for-profits, 16 per cent (215) of 1309 facilities visited failed to comply, while 18 per cent (153) of private facilities did not meet standards.

Government facilities also had the most minutes worked per resident by nurses, with 119 minutes compared to 39 in the other two types of facilities.

Government-run facilities showed the best results for healthcare, which included continence management, fall prevention, palliative care and wound management.

The report used a large amount of data from aged care providers which is not public, but was acquired by the royal commission's powers.

The report said if that data was made public, it “would assist to improve aged care services”.

It also noted that in some cases, indicators were influenced by issues outside the control of the facility, and adjustments could not always be made for those situations in the report.

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