Star ratings system for aged care a failure, says expert

Ratings are a big part of life these days. Appliances are ranked for efficiency and energy. We get a chance to rate restaurants, hotels, resorts and businesses. Even doctors and lecturers receive online star ratings. But how accurate are these ratings and do they always paint a clear picture? In the aged care sector, research suggests the answer is ‘no’.

In December 2022, the federal government introduced a star rating system for aged care facilities. The aim was to provide reliable information about the quality of care being delivered at each.

Now, little more than a year later, there are serious doubts about the system’s efficacy. A study conducted by University of Canberra Adjunct Professor Rodney Jilek found many homes were receiving positive ratings that were very much at odds with their compliance rankings.

Prof. Jilek’s findings formed the basis of an article published in the Melbourne Age titled ‘Why some five-star aged care homes are the worst in the country’.

Such a headline does not suggest a well-functioning ratings system.

Rating the star ratings system

So where does the ratings system fall down? In his report, Prof. Jilek, also the managing director of Community Home Australia, identified four major areas.

First, resident experience. This is the experience of residents as gauged through an annual survey. The survey consults 10 per cent of residents. This fails to reflect that residents’ experiences can change on an almost daily basis, says Prof. Jilek.

Second, compliance. The compliance rating makes up 30 per cent of the total rating and is “supposedly based upon” the accreditation and compliance information provided by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Third, staffing.This aspect is self-reported, with unvetted staffing levels provided by the provider, says Prof. Jilek. “The department of health recently advised that figures they have been reporting for some time are completely incorrect,” he said.

Finally, quality measures. These are also self-reported, again with unvetted data submitted by providers, says Prof. Jilek’s report. “Many of the providers appearing on the Non-Compliance Register rated themselves either 4 or 5 stars for quality measures.”

It appears that the disparity between compliance and star ratings is largely attributable to the latter being reliant on self-reporting. The weighting of the resident experience being 33 per cent is also a potentially confounding factor, Prof. Jilek says.

His report delivered a scathing summary of the star ratings system. “The review team found no evidence to suggest the Star Rating system achieved its stated objectives,” it concluded. Those objectives included, “being clear, transparent or effectively driving improvement.”

So what’s the solution?

Rachel Lane, author of the book Aged Care, Who Cares?, suggests the clichéd method of ‘do your own research’. At least until the star ratings system is improved to a point where it inspires confidence, she says. “If you are investigating an aged care home for yourself, the best research you can do is to try a respite stay.”

As for star ratings of aged care homes, for now it might be best to take them as you might take those of restaurants – with a grain of salt.

Have you relied on the aged care star rating system to help choose a residence? Did you find it to be accurate? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: ‘Staggering’ number of conflicts of interest declared in aged care audits

Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

7 Comments

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  1. Thanks for your interesting article.

    I have read about the introduction of the new Star Rating System for Aged Care ( as per the recommendations from the Royal Commission report ), but do not know how the ratings are calculated.

    Staffing and quality measures are self-reported ?? This must be the biggest joke I have ever heard.

    I have experience with 2 aged care homes, which must be among the most prominent ones.

    And I have extensive experience with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission ( ACQSC ).

    My complaints about one of the aged care homes ( the second one was OK ) and ACQSC have filled up at least 10 thick folders.

  2. Rachel Lane must live under a rock! Try a respite stay. Does she not know that the staff would treat you quite well as opposed to the treatment the aged residents are treated?
    From the beginning of when the Govt made it easier for assistants from 3rd world countries because of a shortage in that industry, a small amount of paperwork (training) ticking the boxes, etc., and very little physical training and very few people skills (DUTY OF CARE) again, NOT their fault, Govt is in bed with the owners and companies of these Aged Care Facilities = PROFIT. Can you imagine if most of these aged care homes closed due to Financial problems (GREED). Heaven forbid the Federal Ruling party would be in the Foetal position. Ask the Registered nurses with long-term experience and that would give you a closer to the truth answer. As for the Drs who work at these aged care facilities, the majority of them have one foot in the grave and all they are there for is to make money (GREED) Did you know that if one of these Drs makes a mistake with the wrong prescription or dosage etc, leading to the resident becoming quite ill or even death, they cannot be held responsible, the fault lies with the Reg Nurse.

  3. Comments pretty reflective of the real world.
    Auditors of the star system skewed away from the locked memory wards who pay the same premiums and charges but it is impossible to provide the services,especially if it is an extra fee Aged Care care home.
    My view is that the memory wards that contain the sickest residents should be measured differently .
    They should also have extra resources in staffing and also the govt provided resources should be like a tied grant and the funds must be spent only in the memory ward.
    After all, the Agedcare care home is basically saving the govt bed places normally in public hospitals and to be fair the provider should be receiving extra,extra funds to cover the extra resources needed.

  4. One needs to know how much each resident is charged each year by the Government-subsidized aged care homes.

    Which is a huge amount of money by any standards.

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