Aged care workforce issues must be addressed without delay

The Australian College of Nursing has welcomed the interim report by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and called on the Commonwealth to act on its findings without delay.

“I understand the Royal Commission’s work is ongoing and it has not yet handed down its final report and recommendations, but as the Commission’s own background paper pointed out earlier this week, this is far from the first inquiry into aged care or the first set of recommendations for improvements,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said.

“Evidence to date has overwhelmingly focused on workforce shortages and skill mix and this needs to be addressed.

“In the past week, the Commonwealth positively responded to the majority of recommendations handed down by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport in its Report on the Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia.

“However, they did not fully commit to its proposal that residential aged care facilities have one registered nurse on duty at all times. ACN believes having at least one registered nurse on duty 24 hours, seven days a week is vital to the provision of quality aged care.

Between 2003 and 2015, the number of residential aged care places increased by 30 per cent and dependency levels of residents rose from 64.4 per cent assessed as high care to 89 per cent.

“Caring for older Australians is complex. They often have chronic conditions and co-morbidities and require a number of medications each day. Yet the number of Registered and Enrolled Nurses in full time equivalent positions in residential aged care facilities (RACF) has fallen by 13 per cent since 2003,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

The impact nurses and advanced practice nurses can have in aged care is significant.

A case study review of nurse practitioners in aged care found that just an additional 10 nurse practitioners in aged care would result in 5,000 avoided emergency department visits.

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