Dec 12, 2022

Medical peak bodies submits concerns over new in-home aged care program

12_12_22 GPs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has flagged that the initial reforms of the in-home aged care model does not include or consider General Practitioners (GPs), voicing concerns this mistake would lead to worse health outcomes for older people.

In a submission to the Department of Health and Aged Care on the new model, the RACGP said it was “a missed opportunity to support better integrated GP-led care” and that they were key to the ongoing management of the health needs of older people.

RACGP President, Dr Nicole Higgins, explained that GP-led care is vital to keeping older people well and in their homes for longer.

“The fact that neither general practice nor GPs are mentioned once in the discussion paper on the proposed model is a significant oversight – GPs are key to improving the health and wellbeing of older people,” she said.

“Older people have much greater need for care, they require GP services at a significantly higher rate than other age groups and are more likely to go to hospital. 

“GPs provide critical services to older patients, including ongoing management of complex and chronic disease, health risk assessments, and preventative care including screening and immunisations.”

In October, the Federal Government released a discussion paper outlining the initial design of the new in-home aged care model from previous consultations and RACGP want it to be reworked to have a stronger emphasis on the roles GPs play in the lives of older Australians.

The organisation want to see the Federal Government take action to address the barriers GPs face in providing care to older people, both in the community and residential aged care, due to the current models of care and funding arrangements.

They also want to see patient rebates restored for phone consultations longer than 20 minutes.

This comes as the sector scrambles to keep GPs in their roles as doctors report being burnt out and having an unmanageable workload.

“Funding arrangements should acknowledge the importance of GPs liaising with their patient’s family and carers and provide appropriate support for after-hours care,” said Dr Higgins.

“The Department of Health and Aged Care Discussion Paper on the indicative model for in-home aged care doesn’t account for the central role GPs have in supporting older people to stay healthier in their home. 

“Nor does it discuss the importance of engagement and information exchange between other health professionals and a patient’s usual GP to ensure integrated care.

“This is a significant concern given the importance of ensuring older people can access their GP, and the broader issues around fragmentation of care highlighted throughout the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.”

RACGP also want to see GPs being consulted in this model and other aged care reforms moving forward.

Privatised aged care assessments condemned

Another peak body for doctors and medical professionals, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), also made a submission in regards to the discussion paper and is calling for aged care assessments to stay in the hands of the public sector.

In the discussion paper, an initial design of the new model for providing in-home aged care re-introduced ‘independent aged care assessments’ as a possibility.

Independent aged care assessments would see older people assessed for the aged care services they need via a private provider.

The AMA has denounced this move, reinstating its position that assessments are best done at public hospitals.

“The AMA has continuously argued, the proposed ‘independent assessor’ approach has the potential to further fragment the care for older people, leading to increased and prolonged hospital stays for many of them,” AMA wrote in their submission.

“The AMA sees this as another attempt to take the aged care assessments out of the public hospital system and hand them over to private providers.”

The organisation adds that the aged care assessment service for older people with complex health and aged care needs to remain with State/Territory health services and their Aged Care Assessment Teams/Services (ACAT/S’).

ACAT/S’ provide medical expertise in assessments, as well as baseline clinical data for subsequent clinical monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of older people.

By handing these assessments to private organisations, the AMA argued that this approach has the potential to further fragment the care of older people, which could lead to increased and prolonged hospital stays for many of them.

The full consultation calendar for the reform of the new model can be found on the Department of Health and Aged Care website.

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