Aged Care

Low R&D investment hampering the aged care sector


A recent study conducted by the Sydney Policy Lab and Impact Economics has shed light on the critical lack of investment in research and development (R&D) within the aged care sector in Australia. This dearth of funding not only hampers innovation but also jeopardises the quality and sustainability of aged care services.

The findings reveal that only a meager 3.6 per cent of total expenditure in aged care, approximately $100 million annually, is allocated to R&D across both public and private sectors. This pales in comparison to investment levels in other industries, with aged care trailing significantly behind.

Professor Brendan McCormack, Academic Chair of Sydney Policy Lab’s Australia Cares project, emphasised the urgency of addressing this issue, stating, “With a growing ageing population, we cannot ignore the current weakness of Australian aged care research and development.”

Highlighting the stark disparity, Dr Kate Harrison Brennan, Director of the Sydney Policy Lab, pointed out that if the aged care sector matched the R&D investment of beekeeping, an additional $150 million could be infused into research efforts each year.

The report also underscores the decline in government funding for aged care-related research over the past two decades. Despite the establishment of government funds totalling $364 million post the Royal Commission into Aged Care, the report indicates a pressing need for additional funding and coordination to align aged care R&D with clinical, financial and quality care objectives.

Why is this shortfall significant? According to Professor McCormack, enhancing the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of care services not only fosters human flourishing and improved well-being but also drives economic growth.

The study identifies missed opportunities for Australia to adopt international innovations, such as the Dutch Buurtzorg Model, which prioritises humanity over bureaucracy and supports independent living for older people within community settings.

To tackle these challenges head-on, the report proposes three key recommendations to the government:

  1. Establishing a coordination organisation for aged care R&D within government.
  2. Developing a joint statement to provide a clear and transparent overview of the shared research and development objectives between the government, care recipients and the aged care sector.
  3. Increasing government funding to reflect the relational nature of care services and support R&D across different organisational types and locations.
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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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