In this article, we focus on four key areas regarding the expansion of the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) to aged care services provided in the community and the questions providers should ask in preparation for 1 December 2022.

This is Part Two in our series on the changes made to the Aged Care Act 1997 (Aged Care Act) and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Act 2018 (ACQSC Act) by the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Act 2022 (Response Act).

1. SIRS Overview

The SIRS is a national framework for incident management and reporting of incidents that occur, are alleged to have occurred or are suspected of having occurred in connection with the provision of care and services to a care recipient.

The obligations of providers under the SIRS include two key components:

  • incident management obligations
  • reportable incident obligations

All approved providers must have an effective incident management system through which they manage and prevent incidents.[1]

Reporting obligations under SIRS for approved providers who provide home care services will commence on 1 December 2022.

It is important that your staff:

  • know what are reportable incidents under SIRS
  • know what a reportable incident may look like in home care
  • have the right tools to support them to know what to do and how to report and record information when an allegation, suspicion or actual reportable incident occurs.

Are you enabling your first line of defence, your staff, with the right training, tools and resources to support them to identify, respond, escalate, report and record reportable incidents?

2. Reporting Incidents

There are eight incident types that are defined as reportable incidents under the Aged Care Act and the Quality of Care Principles 2014 (Quality of Care Principles):

  • unreasonable use of force
  • unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct
  • psychological or emotional abuse
  • unexpected death
  • stealing or financial coercion
  • neglect
  • unexplained absence
  • use of a restrictive practice in a way that is not permitted under the Quality of Care Principles[2]

How familiar are your staff with what is a reportable incident? If your staff are unfamiliar with the reportable incident definitions, they may fail to identify, respond, escalate, report and record a reportable incident.

3. Incident Records

The Quality of Care Principles specifies what information must be recorded for each incident that occurs, including:

  • a description of the incident (date, time, location)
  • the actions that were taken in response to the incident
  • the contact details of the people present (including people directly involved in the incident and those who witnessed the incident)
  • a description of the harm that was caused or could reasonably have been expected to have been caused to each person affected by the incident
  • whether the incident was a reportable incident
  • consequences of the harm (if known)
  • details of the assessments that were undertaken to assess the support and assistance required to ensure the safety, health and well-being of the persons affected by the incident, and the views of each person affected by the incident

Are the reporting tools in your incident management system robust? Do they allow allegations, suspicions as well as incidents that have occurred to be reported? What score out of ten would you give your documentation? Is it contemporaneous and thorough, or are there gaps?

4. Reporting time frames

There are prescribed timeframes for reporting a reportable incident to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) based on whether the reportable incident has been assessed as a Priority 1 or a Priority 2 incident.

Priority 1 Incidents: must be reported to the ACQSC within 24 hours of the provider becoming aware of the incident

Priority 1 incidents are incidents:

  • that have caused, or could reasonably have been expected to cause, a care recipient physical or psychological harm and/or discomfort that would usually require medical or psychological treatment to resolves
  • where there are reasonable grounds to contact the police
  • that involve any unlawful sexual contact or inappropriate sexual conduct
  • that involved the unexpected death of a care recipient
  • that involve the unexplained absence where the approved provider has the care recipient in their physical care immediately prior to the absence.[3]

Priority 2 Incidents: must be reported to the ACQSC within 30 days of the provider becoming aware of the incident

  • A Priority 2 incident is any reportable incident that does not meet the criteria of a Priority 1 incident.[4]

Will your procedures and workflows ensure that you can accommodate the reporting timeframes? Who will assess incidents to determine if they are a Priority 1 or Priority 2 incident? What are your escalation processes? Are your staff aware of them? When was the last time staff underwent training on incident reporting, is it time for a refresher?