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Is My Aged Care Business Ready For an Audit?
If you’ve just bought an aged care business, you may be worrying about the audit. Every aged care residence must pass a provisional audit when ownership changes and regular certification audits on an ongoing basis.
You should consider the audit a priority in your business. A failed audit may jeopardise your operation. Additionally, all audit reports are available to the public; any comments, both positive and negative, that auditors make will influence customers when they’re deciding if your facility is the right one for them. It could also be an influencing factor for buyers if you ever decide to sell your business.
Thankfully, an audit does not need to be a scary process. Although preparing for audit can seem like a large job, it really comes down to three steps: understanding the standards, documenting your commitment to meeting the standards and following through on the documentation.
Understanding the Standards
Aged Care facilities in New Zealand need to meet the Health and Disability Standards 2008. Rest homes have at least 206 criteria to meet. There may be more criteria depending on the services you provide.
The standards can be found at the Standards New Zealand website. Take the time to read them carefully (or have a staff member dedicated to the audit read them carefully) and make sure you know which requirements apply to your facility.
Another good source for audit standards information is the published audit reports. These reports list the requirements and auditors comment on how they were met. Look for reports on successful homes as well as reports that show criteria that haven’t been met to see both sides of the equation.
Auditors will first look at your policies and procedures to make sure they address the audit requirements. For example, the customer service standards include “the right of the consumer to make a complaint is understood, respected and upheld”. To show that you are meeting this standard you must have a written complaints policy and procedure showing how complaints will be dealt with.
Before scheduling your audit, spend time updating your policies. Cross reference the standards with your policies to make sure each standard is covered by your documentation. Lastly, make sure that documentation is easy to understand. You want the auditors to be able to easily recognise which part of your policy or procedure matches each standard.
Once your documentation is in place, it’s time to ensure that the policies and procedures are followed. Give policies and procedures to your staff and implement training so everyone understands the documents and follows them. Auditors will speak to your staff about these policies, so it’s important all workers in the facility can answer questions about the documentation.
Auditors will also speak to residents and their families about how well you meet the standards. Pass relevant policies to residents so they understand how your facility works and what their rights are. If any residents or families raise concerns with you or other staff members, refer to your policies to resolve their problems.
If you've recently acquired a rest home, your first responsibility is to advise the Director-General of Health of a change of governance. You must also choose a Designated Auditing Agency and arrange a time for your audit. Be aware of your timelines; you need to leave enough time for the audit to occur, the report to be written and delivered and processing to occur with the Ministry of Health before any deadlines.
If you understand the standards you must meet, have clear policies and procedures in place and your staff understand and follow those policies and procedures, then you are most likely ready for your audit. Don't take shortcuts with your audit; this is a critical component of being in the aged care industry. Make sure you get it right.