Aged CareNewsSIRSSoftwareAvoiding sanctions due to Serious Incident Response (SIRS)


The Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) aims to minimise the abuse and mistreatment of aged care residents by stipulating that facilities prevent, manage and report serious incidents.  As all Aged Care Providers know, effective reporting of serious incidents such as physical or sexual assault is necessary to preserve the health and safety of residents.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is taking the issue extremely seriously, imposing an extensive range of penalties and sanctions for non-compliance, ranging from the repayment of government grants to the revocation or suspension of approval to be a provider of Aged Care Services.

With the future of your facility dependent upon accurate and timely SIRS reporting, it is important to understand the issues Aged Care Providers face in meeting their reporting needs and – more importantly – how to overcome them, each of which will be covered in this article.


The SIRS issues faced by Aged Care Providers

While Aged Care Providers may intend to fully comply with SIRS, two key instances can lead to a non-compliant audit:

  1. Incidents that should be classified as SIRS but are not, generally due to a mischaracterisation of the incident by staff, or
  2. Matters that are flagged or noted by staff as serious, however, are missed, buried or lost within progress notes or charting when it comes to the official reporting stage (often due to inefficient paper methods).

While in either instance there is no intention to be non-compliant with SIRS, the consequences remain devastating both for the residents and the facility’s operation as a whole. As such, providers must eradicate the probability of either instance.


What can Aged Care Providers do to prevent SIRS oversight?

Here are four tips that can help you to ensure your facility remains compliant with the strict SIRS reporting requirements:

  1. Ensure that each incident has a review or investigative process to make sure all incidents are classified correctly.

The versatile nature of the Aged Care system means that two incidents are rarely ever the same. Rather than take all instances at face value, Aged Care Providers need to implement a clear and thorough investigative process with all those involved, equipped with the relevant knowledge and experience to fulfil their role in the process. It never hurts to be thorough when it comes to due diligence, so adopt a policy of report first (in the MAC portal) and investigate later.

Also, use the Commission’s Decision Making Tool for each actual, suspected or alleged incident as this will help determine if it is a Priority 1 or Priority 2 incident – this is a useful piece of information during the reporting period.

We suggest reporting Priority 1 and 2 incidents within a 24-hour timeframe. Although Priority 2 incidents have a maximum reporting time period of 30 days, this ensures that you avoid ‘forgetting’ to report them.

If in doubt, the golden rule is to always report everything, as it is better to be told that it does not meet the criterion rather than have the Commission inform you that you are non-compliant and then face potential sanctions if upheld.


  1. Ensure that each incident description is also written in the resident’s progress note.

To prevent a SIRS incident report from being lost or misplaced and therefore going unreported, it is important to have a designated commonplace for all matters. This means the quality review team will only need to search in one specific area when it comes to formal incident reporting.

We recommend this be within the resident’s progress note; a simple yet effective place to store incident descriptions, especially serious incidents that meet the SIRS reporting criterion.

Additionally, a scheduled review of all resident’s progress notes and behaviour charting is helpful to stay on top of any notable incidents as a corresponding incident form is often missed and not completed.


  1. Review progress notes regularly for certain keywords.

Whilst the legislation surrounding the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) provides a more thorough definition and explanation of what may constitute a “serious” incident in an aged care facility, here is a non-exhaustive list of telling keywords to keep an eye out for:

“Hit”, “Punch”, “Force”, “Strike”, “Bite”, “Grope”, “Humiliate”, “Kiss”, “Sedate”, “Taunt”, “Abrupt”, “Attack”, “Bang”, “Beat”, “Blow”, “Bottom”, “Breast”, “Bully”, and more.

The inclusion of any such words in a resident’s progress note is not only worthy of a potential SIRS investigation, but also the failure to officially report it can result in significant penalties or worse, a sanction being placed on the Aged Care facility and the certified provider.


  1. Make sure all staff are familiar with and have access to incident reporting.

An Australian aged care facility will likely have a variety of staff in differing roles and with varying experience levels. Nonetheless, it is integral that each of them is familiar with their facility’s reporting procedure. Of particular interest here is the cleaning staff whose presence after hours and familiarity with reporting requirements may be integral to the safety of residents.

Most importantly, make sure that your staff are well versed in how to identify a SIRS incident, that there are training records that can easily be accessed and that these records are constantly updated. If there is a case of non-compliance, these records are likely to be scrutinised.


What can Acredia do to assist with SIRS compliance?

Acredia is your supportive partner dedicated to maintaining the safety of your aged care residents and the smooth operation of your facility.

To ensure ongoing compliance with SIRS, our software includes a comprehensive incident management system covering resident, medication, and staff and contractor incidents. A SIRS report is automatically raised when an incident is classified as such.

On top of this, incident descriptions or free text can be created as progress notes automatically, which the Acredia software will then rate based on the presence of keywords such as “hit” or “punch” and produce a relevance score, the size of which indicates severity.

Acredia also facilitates self-service for staff (clinical and non-clinical as well as external health professionals) so that all users can raise incidents easily and efficiently and continue providing the caring service that residents deserve.

Importantly, Acredia can notify the Governing Body, Executive as well as the Residential Manager and Clinicians of the aged care home as soon as an incident meeting the SIRS criterion is saved so that everyone is aware and can act accordingly.


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