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Aged care and health: Royal Commission and Reforms

Justin Fung, Avant Law - Partner, Head of Commercial & Corporate | General Manager

Monday, 8 August 2022

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Key takeaways

  • Once released, familiarise yourself with the new Code of Conduct to avoid substantial potential penalties for non-compliance  
  • Expect to see a potential increase in regulatory engagement given the new role of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner

Effective 8 August 2022, the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022 was passed, enabling major improvements to aged care in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. 

The following information provides a high-level summary of the reforms for health care workers with the potential for further reforms for nursing staff requirements.

Summary of reforms for health care workers

  • A new Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers to replace the current code.
  • As the current code (although national) is enforced at the State/Territory level, therefore creating ambiguity regarding application/coverage, the new Code will be overseen at the Federal level by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner
  • Under the new Code, the Commissioner will have certain banning powers.

Following the release of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, reforms have remained a significant agenda item for the Australian Government. Earlier this month, the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022 (Cth) was passed. This Bill addresses the Royal Commission’s recommendations and impacts a range of stakeholders, including health care workers.

In particular, there will now be a new National Code of Conduct for health care workers which will be administered at the Federal level (New National Code). This will replace the current National Code of Conduct, the application and coverage of which is presently fragmented across each of the State and Territories. This has led to ambiguity as to whether certain healthcare workers are covered, depending on where they are employed, their specific work-setting and what health care services they are providing. The New National Code seeks to remove this ambiguity in order to create greater consistency in the regulatory framework.

This will largely be achieved through the Commissioner of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission overseeing the sector’s compliance with the New National Code. The Commissioner will have the usual powers to monitor, investigate and enforce compliance. However, these powers will include the power to ban aged care workers and governing persons of any approved aged care providers and imposing certain civil penalties (currently up to a maximum of around $55,000 per breach).

Possible further reforms on nursing staff requirements

The Australian Parliament is also currently debating a second bill on aged care, which proposes certain reforms relating to minimum registered nursing staff requirements and home care charges. Stay tuned for more updates.

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About the author

Justin Fung

Justin Fung is a lawyer and the Head of Commercial and Corporate in our Avant Law team. Justin has over 15 years’ experience advising in commercial, corporate, risk, compliance, governance, regulatory enforcement and dispute resolution and advises clients in the private and public sectors. He was previously General Counsel of a national allied health group of companies and held Group and Divisional Head of Legal roles in a major ASX-listed health company, whose operations covered medical and dental centres, allied health, pathology, diagnostic imaging, assisted reproductive technologies, day surgeries and hospitals. Prior to these in-house legal roles, Justin was an Executive Counsel with the global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills where he practiced for over 10 years.


Disclaimers

The information in this article does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of this content. The information in this article is current to 9 August 2022. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation. Legal practitioners employed by Avant Law Pty Limited are members of the scheme. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2024

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