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New star ratings show big improvements needed in residential aged care

An analysis of the star ratings attained by the ACT’s 23 residential aged care facilities, under a new federal government framework rolled out at the end of last year, reveals more needs to be done to raise the standard of care.

Independent ACT Senator David Pocock, whose office reviewed the new publicly available data, warned that despite recent gains, big improvements are still needed.

“I warmly welcome the roll out of the new aged care star ratings by the federal government,” Senator Pocock said.

“These star ratings significantly improve the transparency around monitoring the experiences of our senior Australians living in residential aged care.

“The ratings are an important tool for residents and their families, care givers, providers and policymakers.

“Our review of the star ratings for ACT-based facilities indicate that despite recent reforms, big improvements are still needed to lift the standard of care being provided.”

The analysis shows that over half of aged care homes in the ACT aren’t meeting their nursing care minutes, with one provider missing their 38 minute minimum benchmark by 22 minutes.

In three facilities, 100 per cent of people have been restrained physically, while across all facilities, an average of one in 10 residents may potentially be malnourished.

“Having met with many nurses and personal care workers over the past six months, I know workers are stretched and this data clearly shows we need more people in facilities to help care for the personal and clinical needs of our older Canberrans,” Senator Pocock said.

Senator Pocock said the analysis also pointed to potential improvements being needed to the star ratings system.

“Despite over half of facilities missing their nursing care minutes, none had an overall rating of less than three stars, meaning that providers are being deemed as providing an overall ‘acceptable level of care’ despite failing to meet their care minutes.

“This raises serious questions that facilities in which one in five residents are potentially malnourished can still score a three out of five stars.

“I expect the majority of people in our community would agree that the overall quality of care is not acceptable if 20 per cent of residents are potentially malnourished and nearly two-thirds are being chemically restrained.”

Facilities can still achieve “acceptable” star rating despite poor individual scores on these fronts because the measures around unplanned weight loss, use of chemical restraints and staffing contribute the least to the overall rating.

Providers can trade off nursing minutes for more personal carer minutes to keep their ratings above three stars, even though personal care workers and registered nurses provide distinctly different services and levels of care. 

“From 1 July, all facilities will be required to have an RN on site and on duty 24/7, so we should start to see the gaps close pretty quickly,” Senator Pocock said.

“However, clearly more needs to be done around nutrition for seniors in aged care.

“I urge the government to reconsider how they measure malnutrition, moving from unplanned weight loss to something more holistic, in consultation with accredited practising dietitians and other experts in nutrition.

“I also urge anyone with a loved one in aged care to read all of the quality measures in detail, as the overall star rating currently doesn’t reflect the level of care residents are receiving in each facility.

“These star ratings have the potential to really inform choice in the sector and drive improvement, but it needs refining and we need the aged care watchdog to be properly funded to carry out inspections and follow up complaints from residents, their families and advocates.”

A summary of the analysis is provided below. You can check the star rating of a provider using this tool.


There are 23 aged care facilities in the ACT listed on the My Aged Care website.

  • 16 of these facilities had an overall star rating of “Acceptable”
  • 7 had an overall star rating of “Good”

On average, more than 1 in 10 people in aged care facilities experienced unplanned weight loss in the most recent reporting period.

  • Across all 23 facilities, an average (median) of 12 per cent of people experienced unplanned weight loss, a sign those people are malnourished.
  • In three facilities, this number is as high as 1 in 5 (at least 20%).
  • According to resident surveys, many residents report that they do not like the food they are being served.
    • On average, across all facilities, over a third of residents report that they either never enjoy the food they are being served or do not enjoy it most of the time.
    • In one case, this is as high as 69% (over two-thirds of residents).

There are a number of cases where residents are still being restrained in high numbers.

  • In three facilities, 100% of their residents had been subject to physical restraints in the reporting period.
  • In five facilities, 0% of residents had been subject to physical restraints.
  • Across all facilities, the average was 27% - 1 in 4 residents.
  • While generally quite low across the ACT, in one facility, 59% of residents (over half) had been subject to chemical restraints.

Over one-third of facilities are not meeting their total care minutes, while over half are not meeting their registered nursing care minutes.

  • Nine facilities (39%) did not meet their total care minutes, encompassing both personal care minutes and registered nurse minutes.
  • 13 facilities (56%) did not meet their registered nurse care minutes.
  • For those that missed their nursing minutes target, an average of 10 minutes was missing per resident.
  • One facility was missing 22 minutes (out of 38) registered nursing minutes.

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