The major reform in funding for home care services which starts today, has the potential to improve quality and choice for older Australians – as long as the transition process is effectively managed.
“Flexibility, including portability, will be the big wins for consumers,” Australian College of Nursing Chief Executive Officer, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward commended. “Giving older people more choice in the way services are delivered in their homes can keep them independent and healthier longer. ACN welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to improving home care services.”
However, while increased competition may drive improvements in service quality, it can also impact on capacity.
“We need to ensure providers are not unduly incentivised to drive down costs,” Adjunct Professor Ward warned. “These reforms need to keep qualified, vetted care providers, including trained nurses, at the centre of service delivery.
“ACN will be closely watching to ensure the reforms do not lead to ‘pop-up’ service providers who suddenly appear in the marketplace because it seems like there are easy profits to be made.”
One key way to prevent a decline in service quality is to ensure older Australians and their families are well-informed on the level of care they should expect from their service provider.
“We hope this change will drive innovation and lead to more personalised services,” Adjunct Professor Ward said. “However, we are cognisant that when similar funding changes have been made in other areas, such as disability support, providers with long histories of excellence have found the transition challenging, with their sustainability put at risk.
“There cannot be significant payment delays during the transition process or huge costs for providers associated with the change.
“The Government must do all it can to support those currently providing high quality services to manage this change so they can keep their doors open and maintain their current standards of care.
“As the Minister said when launching this new system today, older Australians helped make our nation what it is today. There must be assurances that they won’t be worse off.”
The Australian College of Nursing is also concerned the benefits of the reforms may not be fairly shared across the community, including in rural and remote areas where access to services may be limited.
“With a number of significant health care reforms coming online, including the NDIS and aged care deregulation, there is also likely to be increased competition and this could result in skills shortages across the country. It highlights the need to continue to train and retain adequate numbers of nurses in the health workforce,” Adjunct Professor Ward concluded.
“Government must work closely with all stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition and ensure no consumer is disadvantaged.”