Commission to explore aged care and health care interface

At its Canberra hearing, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will be inquiring into the interfaces between aged care and the delivery of health care in the States and Territories.


The hearing will be held in Canberra, from Monday 9 December to Friday 13 December 2019.


The management and funding of aged care is the responsibility of the Australian Government, whereas responsibility for management and funding for the various tiers and types of health care varies and is very complex.


There is considerable regional variation in services available on the ground, and little evidence of a systematic approach to providing health care to people in the aged care system, particularly residents in facilities. Collection and analysis of data about the health care of people in aged care leaves significant room for improvement.


Yet health care is vital to safe and high quality aged care. All people receiving aged care should have access to health care services commensurate with their needs, on an equitable basis with the access to health care enjoyed by other Australians.


As Counsel Assisting is expected to submit at the opening of the hearing:

Access to health services is perhaps best described as a patchwork quilt where the pieces don't join particularly well. In some areas with an active primary health network or local hospital network, older people in aged care receive excellent services. In other areas, access is much more limited. This week we will explore ways in which these instances of good practice can be systematised so that all Australians in aged care are provided with the health care they need and are entitled to receive.


The hearing will involve examination of proposals for potential improvement of several important aspects of the health and aged care interfaces, with the aim of meeting the aim of equitable access.


The aspects which will be explored are:

  • primary health care;
  • secondary (or specialist) health care;
  • the potential for meeting some acute care needs in a community or aged care facility setting rather than in hospital;
  • palliative care and advance care directives;
  • transfers to Emergency Departments and other hospitalisations;
  • post-discharge rehabilitation and restoration;
  • clarification of roles and responsibilities;
  • improvements in data collection; and
  • information sharing.


Witnesses to be called include primary health practitioners who are involved in providing care in aged care settings using innovative service delivery models, representatives of the Australian Medical Association President (Dr Tony Bartone) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (Dr Mark Morgan), clinicians and others involved in the delivery of care as part of multidisciplinary "outreach" teams to people in aged care, professionals with Emergency Department and Ambulance experience, providers of aged care, and palliative care specialists with experience of aged care settings.


The Royal Commission will also hear from a panel of academics including Professor Leon Flicker, Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Western Australia Medical School, who gave evidence in Broome in June.


Later in the hearing, senior representatives of the Health Departments of each State and Territory will be called in panels and will be asked how system interfaces can be improved. The Secretary of the Department of Health for the Commonwealth, Glenys Beauchamp PSM (who will appear concurrently with other Commonwealth officials), will be asked to respond to the same propositions for improvement.


As with previous public hearings, a number of direct experience witnesses will each tell of their own experiences in the aged care system. The witnesses giving evidence in this hearing provide insights into aspects of the interfaces between the aged care and health systems, including how difficulties in obtaining access to medical care have exacerbated the poor health of their loved ones and have had consequences for their quality of life.


More information about the Canberra Hearing can be found on the Royal Commission website.


Guidance on how to make a submission to the Royal Commission can be found on the Submissions page.


The hearing will begin at 10am local time on Monday 9 December 2019 at The Vibe Hotel Canberra, 1 Rogan St, Canberra ACT 2609.


The public are welcome to attend the hearing and are advised to arrive at least 30 minutes early to pass through security.


There will be a live webcast of the hearing during the week and a witness list is now available to view on the website.


9 December 2019.