Time to take a more not less approach to aged care staffing

Older Australians deserve high quality care, and this requires more registered nurses working within aged care, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) said today as it welcomed the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Counsel Assisting’s Submission on Workforce.

“Over the past two decades, while older people’s clinical needs have increased, the proportion of the care workforce made up of registered nurses has fallen and we have become increasingly reliant on unregulated care workers (UHCW) to look after aged care residents,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said.

As at 2016, unlicensed health care workers made up 70 per cent of the residential aged care workforce, while the number of registered nurses (RNs) had fallen from 21 per cent in 2003 to less than 15 per cent¹.

“We are pleased the Royal Commission Counsel Assisting has, based on the strong evidence presented, recognised the difference a workforce supported by the skills and expertise of registered nurses can make to the care we provide our older Australians,” Adjunct Professor Ward FACN welcomed.

“The principles embraced in this submission are in line with measures ACN has long been calling for.

“In particular, we support the proposal that unregulated care workers should be subject to a registration process with a minimum mandatory qualification as an entry requirement.

“As stressed in our Position Statement, and White Paper, ACN believes the contribution of UHCWs to nursing care should be underpinned and regulated by participation in the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS).

“Of course, to attract experienced staff, we must ensure appropriate remuneration is on offer and staff are safe at work.”

¹ Mavromaras, K., Knight, G., Isherwood, L., Crettenden, A., Flavel, J., Karmel, T., Moskos, M., Smith, L., Walton, H. & Wei, Z. 2017, The Aged Care Workforce, 2016, Department of Health, viewed 18 February 2019, https://agedcare.health.gov.au/sites/g/files/net1426/f/documents/03_2017/nacwcs_final_report_290317.pdf>

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