Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jan-Feb 2014 Contents mean and the parties seek to build realistic responses to the
policy, he says.
THE NEW AGENCY
One of the biggest changes currently unfolding in aged care is
the establishment of the new Aged Care Quality Agency, which
replaces the Accreditation Agency from 1 January.
Unlike the Accreditation Agency, which has operated as an
independent public company limited by guarantee, the Quality
Agency will be a statutory authority staffed under the Public
Given Brandon has historically been vocal about the need
for accreditation bodies to operate at least arm's length from
government he declined to put himself forward as a candidate to
head the new agency.
"Having written and spoken about why I think accreditation
should not be a government activity, it would be somewhat
hypocritical to say I wanted to take the job," he says. He adds that
he had become accustomed to "working in a company where I'm
able to act independently and publicly express views and thoughts;
the sorts of things which aren't open to the public servants."
Of the transition to the new agency, Brandon says that
Accreditation Agency staff are currently being transferred
across to the Australian Public Service. "My staff are top quality
and they will be an asset to the public service," he says. The
employment arrangements will be different, however from a
provider's point of view, "the operational process will be the same
in three months' time as it is today."
When asked what qualities or attributes his successor should
possess, Brandon laughs and says: "There are always challenges
working in a job with such a diverse range of stakeholders. My
successor needs the wisdom of Solomon."
"Seriously though, the CEO of the Quality Agency needs an
understanding of the notion of people ahead of process, because
processes are used by people. If processes don't work you change
them, you don't blindly follow them."
His successor should also have a strong sense of customer
service and a capacity to engage with people, he says. "Ideally
they will have a track record in stakeholder relationship
management. They need a track record in working with
politicians. It is a job one learns along the way."
POLITICS AND POLICY
Working with politicians is certainly something Brandon can
advise his successor on, having been CEO of the Accreditation
Agency during eight ministers for ageing.
"It's an irony to me that my career as CEO of the Accreditation
Agency is being bookended by the same minister --- Kevin
Andrews, who was also the minister when I arrived."
Recalling the different ministers he has worked under, Brandon
says: "Each listened to stakeholders in different ways. They were
each influenced by different stakeholders." He makes the point
that while aged care has moved to increasingly evidence-based
service delivery, policy making hasn't necessarily followed and
"sometimes the loudest voices win," he says. "More rules do not
equate to better outcomes for residents," he says as an aside.
Asked if any of the eight in particular had left a lasting legacy
in the sector, Brandon offers a very diplomatic: "Some of them
contributed more than others."
Discussing his own contributions and those of the agency in the 11
years he has led it, Brandon says: "When I joined it struck me as
curious that we were an accrediting body, but we weren't accredited
ourselves. We were the first company in the world to have our
assessor training accredited by the International Society for Quality
in Healthcare (ISQua)." Under Brandon, the Accreditation Agency
was also externally certified by SAI global assessors.
Brandon highlights the agency's effective transition from
five separate and independent operations to a truly national
organisation as another of its key successes.
He also points to the agency's international profile, developed
during his tenure and bolstered by his role as vice-chair of
ISQua's international accreditation council and more recently
as chair of the ISQua Quality in Social Care for Older Persons
international interest group.
"The other thing I'm proud of is that in 2002 we were barely
known in Australia, let alone overseas. Here we are in 2013 and
my managers and I are being sought after overseas to give advice
on aged care, and on promoting quality through regulation and
accreditation," he says.
The impact of Brandon's achievements is borne out by the
common comment from providers that the Accreditation Agency
is a much better organisation to deal with today than it was in
2002, and that it has worked constructively with the sector to
improve standards and outcomes.
And that, certainly, is enough to make any mother proud. n
CRITICS OF THE
The discussion that is held by commentators that assessors go
in and just check paperwork is not well informed. Last year we
interviewed 56,000 patients and residents and over 85,000 staff,
so the whole assessment process is not single dimensional.
Sometimes the people who make commentary about
accreditation simply don't understand it and don't ask us how it
works. Our perspective is that accreditation is an internationally
recognised system of quality assurance and review. It's an
absolute truth that from time to time the systems don't deliver.
Usually it's because it is people delivering services to people.
Accreditation reduces the risk of that, it doesn't stop it.
ADVICE TO THE MINISTER
We need to make sure the quality agency is able to operate
independently. Operational independence from government
and the department is equally important with decision making.
One of the things we have been doing over the years is to
participate in research projects or industry working groups. We
do that to create value by applying knowledge and thinking, not
to run a government or public service line. If I was the incoming
CEO, what I'd like to hear from the ministry is, 'You have true
operational independence. I want you to be nimble, I want you to
contribute to the sector, and I want you to do that in a way which
reflects intellectual thought and not merely government policy'.
I don't intend to retire. Since joining the organisation I have
come to a position where I think I can contribute to quality of
life for people in aged care and disability services. I'm looking
to remain in the sector, hopefully in a senior leadership role
where I can contribute to better outcomes in life for people who
are aged or have a disability. I'd like to find an organisation that
is struggling and which wants to do better, or alternatively an
organisation that's doing quite well but really wants to improve.
Mark Brandon with Accreditation Agency staff.
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