Australia’s peak body for psychology the Australian Psychological Society (APS) welcomes the Federal Government’s recognition of the need to urgently create Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items to increase the provision of allied health services, including mental health services, to people in aged care during the pandemic.
The Federal Government announced it will immediately accept all recommendations in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s special report. This includes the removal of barriers to allied health professionals to enter residential aged care facilities.
APS President Ros Knight said the decision followed years of APS advocacy work to increase access to psychological services for aged care residents.
“For years now, the APS has advocated to Government that the psychological profession has the potential to make a significant difference to the lives of older people, their families, and the professionals who care for them.
“We are pleased that the government has listened and is continuing to take steps to increase psychological services for Australians,” she said.
Ms Knight said while older Australians in the community can access up to 10 Medicare rebates for psychological treatment of a mental disorder, Commonwealth-funded permanent aged care residents are not eligible.
“To date, funding models have not supported treatment by psychologists within residential aged care facilities. This has been to the detriment of loved ones living in aged care in need of mental health support.
“Rebatable sessions for aged care residents during the pandemic has the potential to make a significant positive impact on the lives of our elderly. Allowing psychologists to enter facilities to provide this additional care will benefit their clients and families, and the aged care workers,” she said.
The Royal Commission’s special report states that since March, levels of depression, anxiety, confusion, loneliness and suicide risk among aged care residents have increased. COVID-19 has impacted the elderly in far greater numbers than the rest of the population, with the highest death rate, and the traumatising effects cannot be overstated.
“Listening to the stories in recent months from family and loved ones, there are many accounts of aged care residents who are desperately missing the social contact that is needed to stay mentally healthy.”
The APS will continue to advocate for the provision of face to face rebatable items for aged care residents beyond the pandemic.
The Commissioners are calling for Government to report to Parliament by 1 December on the implementation of the recommendations.
“We look forward to working with the government to design and implement the further measures that are required to support the mental health of residents,” she said.