Peter Williams, Leading Together: Tackling complex challenges through Cross-Sectorial collaboration

30 Aug 2023

We had the privilege to talk with Peter Williams, the CEO of OneCare Limited, an aged care provider exclusively serving Tasmania.

In this insightful interview, Peter shares his perspectives on the changing landscape of ageing well in Australia and the need for today’s leaders to be adept at navigating complex cross-sectoral collaboration to achieve meaningful change.

  1. What are some of the major intersectoral challenges your organisation is facing?

As the CEO for OneCare Limited, a large aged care provider operating solely in Tasmania, some of the major intersectoral challenges facing our organisation include but are not limited to; Healthcare and social services integration, workforce shortages, funding challenges, keeping pace with advancing technology and limited focus on mental health and wellbeing programs for consumers and employees.

Aged care services across Australia are experiencing the most fundamental change in the way we deliver services as a direct result of the aged care reform and changing consumer expectations.  Australia’s population of those over the aged of 65 years has now exceeded 16% and will continue to increase year on year, meaning more people will seek to access some form of aged care service and support.  Currently, the service offerings include independent living villages, supported living, home care services, day centres and nursing homes.

Despite these known challenges, OneCare Limited is actively collaborating with our State Health service in order to find meaningful integration opportunities across the entire Tasmanian health care system.  Our consumers and indeed our state Government are expecting greater fluidity between hospitals, community support and aged care homes in order to receive timely, clinically appropriate and contemporary care and support.  

In addition to my role as CEO, I also Chair the Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) Tasmanian state members council.  ACCPA is the national industry association for aged care providers offering retirement living, seniors housing, residential care, home care, community care, and related services and support.  Our regular monthly meeting has been the space for dialogue, open discussions and collaboration with aged care leaders, the Tasmanian Health Service (acute care sector) and the Department of Health and Aged Care. 

Some of the key drivers identified to improve health and social service integration is; the sharing and greater visibility of health care data, improved accuracy of consumer information and advanced education, training and support for the aged care sector to confidentially manage increasing complex care needs of older Tasmanians as they move into residential care.  Nationally, with the emphasis on providing services to consumers in their own home, we are seeing an increase in complex care needs including dementia and older Australians who are living with cognitive impairments that impact their ability to self-care enter aged care homes. 

A Tasmanian innovative is the expansion of specialist medical and nursing support from hospitals to the aged care sector our state.  Under this Government initiative, aged care services have direct access to a Geriatrician, Psychiatrist and nurses who can provide education, training and onsite support to aged care staff in order to deliver contemporary care to consumers with increasing complex care needs.  In addition to this, Tasmania is looking at better ways to openly share data across the hospital and aged care sector so that greater transparency of bed availability and clinical information is easily accessible to both parties.

Successful cross-sectoral collaboration in aged care, or any field, requires strong leadership with specific capabilities to navigate the complexities and challenges that arise when working across different sectors.  Whilst the list of capabilities could be extensive, below includes a small number of key leadership capabilities that I believe are fundamentally important for effective cross-sectoral collaboration.

Firstly, communication skills are critical where leaders who can convey complex ideas, goals, and strategies clearly and effectively to stakeholders from different sectors. Clear communication helps in building a shared understanding and commitment to the collaborative effort.

Secondly, collaborations often involve differing opinions and interests. So, it is important that leaders should be adept at negotiation and conflict resolution, recognising personal biases and finding common ground and addressing disagreements in a constructive manner that helps to build trust.

Thirdly, cross-sectoral collaborations often involve intricate systems with multiple interconnected parts. Leaders should have the ability to think holistically, understanding how changes in one area can impact the entire collaborative effort. Having exposure and an understanding of the wider health care system can assist here.  Through our local collaborations, having health care leaders visit other service streams can improve awareness and understanding of the operational intricacies leading to more effective cross-sectoral collaborations.

Also, looking for innovation or creative ideas is essential as an industry leader when working on cross-sectoral collaborations.  It can be easy to go down the rabbit hole of negative thinking with the occurrence of relentless change but, we cannot forget about our leadership responsibilities to lead by example and always look at the opportunities in front of us that can positively impact our service delivery.

Finally, to achieve successful cross-sectoral collaboration in aged care, as an industry leader we must broaden our lens in which we see the world, be conscious of our biases, be curious and ask more questions, listen with intent and then collaborate widely in order to create future possibilities.