What is the Serious Incident Reporting Scheme?
The Serious Incident Reporting Scheme (SIRS) is an initiative from the Australian Government to enhance governance practices within the Aged Care sector, specifically residential aged care providers who are subsidised by the Australian Government. It requires eligible providers to have an effective incident management framework in place to not only manage how they prevent incidents (including complaints), but also how incidents are managed.
SIRS also places an obligation on providers to report certain types of matters to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission) within a specified timeframe. This article provides an overview of steps a provider should consider implementing to adhere to its responsibilities in terms of SIRS.
For more information on how to fulfil your obligations under SIRS, learn more in our comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know.
What are the key aspects of the SIRS?
Set out below is a summary of the key points that a provider should consider employing to ensure that it is compliant with SIRS and is enacting a best practice governance framework for the effective management of incidents:
1. 24/7 Reporting Mechanisms
A provider should stand up a program to allow for 24/7 reporting of incidents and complaints. This program should allow for anonymous reporting and be extended to employees, contractors, customers and family members of customers. This is often a difficult thing for organisations to do well and providers should consider engaging an external hotline provider. This will alleviate any capacity or capability gaps the provider may have and ensure that all reports are received and managed in a consistent manner.
2. Escalation Protocols
Documenting which matters need to be reported to the Commission or escalated as a high priority matter internally is key to ensuring that the provider meets its responsibilities for SIRS. These protocols should not only document what matters should be reported (or escalated) but also how it should be done and the timeframes around this escalation.
3. Triage and Assessment procedures
Providing a framework with templates and checklists to assist internal resources to triage and assess incidents that are received will provide consistency in how reports are prioritised and weighted.
4. Investigation Guidelines
Once reports of incidents are received and adequately assessed, an investigation may be required. Procedures and guidelines relating to when, why and how these investigations are conducted are crucial to ensure consistency and to ensure procedural fairness is adhered to.
5. Support Procedures
Speaking up about issues and reporting incidents can be a stressful event for individuals. Concerns about job security and reprisal that a person may face are often a reason for why individuals don’t speak up. Procedures should be drafted and implemented by the provider to ensure that effective support is provided to a reporter (or persons associated with the reporter).
6. Systems for effective reporting
As referred to above, in certain circumstances a provider is required to report matters to the Commission. Having a system in place that allows for:
– the identification of key data sources that support the incident management framework; and
– conducting detailed analysis of those data sources, compliance performance and outcomes and performance,
ensures correct reporting can be done to the Commission and internal stakeholders
7. Promotion and Training on the Framework
It is vital that individuals who are covered by the reporting mechanisms are aware of the framework to ensure that incidents are reported and dealt with appropriately by the provider. This should include:
- Training senior management (and the Board) to ensure they are across the processes being implemented and set the right ‘tone from the top’.
- Providing training to managers within the provider to help comply with the requirements of SIRS, whist fostering and supporting a safe speak up culture.
- Educating all employees and contractors through an adequate learning management system to allow knowledge of the processes and reporting channels to be understood and known by employees.
- Conducting key role training to provide in-depth knowledge of the providers’ requirements and framework and their roles within the framework.
- Effectively communicating the framework to customers and family members of customers so they understand how they can report and what their expectations of the provider should be when a report is submitted.
Implementing the SIRS framework is an opportunity for providers
Many providers are now in the position where they are required by the Commission to implement incident management frameworks. This should be seen as an opportunity by the provider to review its framework and ensure that not only are the key aspects of SIRS met, but best-practice governance practices are implemented.
Are you a provider who falls under SIRS and is interested in further information and tips on implementing an effective incident management framework? Contact us to find out how our experience creating safe speak up cultures within the aged care sector can assist your organisation, no matter the size.