We recently welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback on the RUCS Consultation and wanted to share some of our thoughts to our wider community.
While we support many of the recommendations, we would like to highlight an area of risk not considered. This report states there is a clear incentive for high-quality services as there is no requirement for providers to request a reassessment. Therefore, it is in the provider’s best interest to deliver enablement interventions to reduce ongoing care costs. We have noted the following concerns concerning this:
Concerns for Aged Care Providers
From what has currently been released, there is no direct provision in the new funding tool for allied health services. However, we do recognize that an appropriate skill mix in residential aged care facilities is important to demonstrate the new Aged Care Quality Standards. There are many added benefits that an onsite Allied Health Professional can provide. Many of these benefits are in the wider domains of quality of life and wellbeing. Currently, quality of life outcomes is not commonplace in residential aged care.
In a 2018 COTA report titled, “Measuring Quality and Consumer Choice in Aged Care”, only 64% of 416 aged care providers reported using a system or tool to collect quality of life metrics. Less than half of that group could name the tool that was used. No providers reported they were publishing quality of life metrics.
This is a concern for providers as the same report revealed 74% of 676 consumers in residential aged care consider “Information about the quality of life” as the second most important piece of information when choosing an aged care provider.
Concerns for Allied Health Providers
The 4B program guaranteed an Allied Health Professional onsite at a minimum of 4 days a week. With the new funding model, allied health onsite hours will vary across providers.
While Allied Health experiences the same workforce issues as the entire sector, these changes may result in current clinicians experiencing reduced hours. Many overseas trained clinicians have moved to regional areas. If their hours were to drop, it may result in them moving to other locations to source full-time work. This will then leave a gap for regional areas for any allied health services. Regional services already suffer due to their location and ability to attract and retain staff. Loss of Allied Health Professionals will compound their issues and result in higher travel fees for AHPs to travel to the site once per week.
We note that providers will need to demonstrate the provision of allied health services which will be investigated during re-accreditation audits against the new Aged Care Quality Standards, but these hours may not fully compensate for the loss of 4B PMP program hours.
Recommended Course of Action
More research needs to be completed in this area to ensure allied health continues to be part of the skill mix in residential aged care.
There is scope for each provider to develop and tailor an Allied Health Workforce Solution to meet the needs of their consumers to ensure the quality of life outcomes are improved cost-effectively.
Please feel free to share with your colleagues to raise the importance of placing consumer views at the center of service delivery.