The juggernaut of aged care policy development and implementation continues to roll on, with many non profit organisations struggling to find capacity to have an effective voice. Our Aged Care Working Group met again with the Department of Health and Aged Care to discuss details of proposed changes to in-home aged care. A lot of progress that needs to be made before allied health is genuinely and fully included in the Department’s thinking.
Minister Anika Wells established an Aged Care Funding Taskforce to develop sustainable funding mechanisms for quality aged care. AHPA has been engaging with these issues for some time via our membership of the National Aged Care Alliance, and more recently through participating in a national stakeholder summit convened by the Aged & Community Care Providers Association.
We continue to need to stress in all our discussions that allied health, as clinical health care, must be a core funded component of aged care, not an optional extra that only the wealthy can afford. The ‘elephant in the room’ is the fact that currently allied health is grossly under-provided, particularly in residential care. Latest Government quarterly reporting bears this out, with allied health minutes having now dropped to 4.6 minutes per resident per day – significantly less than the 8 minutes criticised by the Royal Commission. At the same time, there is no minimum benchmark nor genuine quality standards to hold providers and Government to account, despite Royal Commission recommendations.
Newly published research on allied health professionals’ (AHPs’) experiences working in residential aged care during the COVID-19 pandemic also makes for very interesting if sobering reading. AHPs said that what happened during the pandemic confirmed to them that their role was seen as non-essential to resident care and in the workforce.
AHPA and our members are also currently formulating responses to the Department’s consultation on regulating the aged care system. We see this as an opportunity to develop genuinely accountable, high quality aged care services for all. At the same time, AHPA is very concerned that a key proposed change will require sole or small allied health providers to undergo an additional registration and compliance process if they wish to provide Commonwealth-subsidised home care services. We will strongly oppose further regulation of our professionals, who are already either stringently self-regulated or registered via AHPRA.
It’s been a difficult month for allied health professionals providing NDIS services. Following Government announcement of its intention to hold future increases in the cost of the NDIS to 8%, allied health providers continue to be blamed by some media for supposedly ‘price gouging’ in comparison to consumer charges under other schemes. AHPA and our members consistently explain why this is simply wrong, including in an interview with Virginia Trioli Your questions about NDIS cost differences answered – ABC Melbourne.
The NDIA released its pricing update in response to the recent review, with allied health service prices for the fourth year in a row failing to even be indexed. This was despite substantial evidence provided by AHPA and large therapy support providers. AHPA will continue working with those providers to strategise around pricing, particularly as the NDIS Review is now consulting on reform of the NDIS pricing and payments system.
The Allied Health Digital Health Reference Group has now concluded. We thank all participants for their valuable contributions. This work has helped both AHPA and key stakeholders determine key tasks requiring collaboration to achieve successful My Health Record integration within the allied health sector.
As key next steps AHPA will be working with member organisations to more deeply understand the information allied health professionals share and how they share it to facilitate informed client care.
We will also be working with Services Australia and member organisations to ensure all allied health practitioners are able to access a Healthcare Provider Identifier – Individual number (HPI-I); a HPI-I is the first key step to facilitating My Health Record access and AHPA want to make sure there are no infrastructure barriers impacting practitioners access.
AHPA will continue to liaise with the Australian Digital Health Agency regarding their workplan for the 23/24 financial year and beyond and look forward to continuing to collaborate to grow the digital maturity of the allied health sector and support implementation of Government digital initiatives.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is reviewing the list of occupations in Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) for the first time in two decades.
ANZSCO is a skill-based classification used to classify all occupations and jobs in the Australian and New Zealand labour markets (When the ABS collects data about professions, e.g. in the Census, it classifies them according to this list.)
Feedback is being sought on the accuracy of current occupation skill levels and descriptions and any occupations anticipated to emerge or decline in the next 5 to 10 years. Allied health professions that were not very large in the 1990s are likely still classified in miscellaneous categories with the label “not elsewhere classified” (n.e.c.) and this needs to change.
Public consultation rounds are being held across 2023 and 2024 with each round targeting selected occupations grouped by focus area, and consultation that focuses on allied health is open now, with submissions accepted until 11 August 2023.
AHPA has met twice with representatives from the ABS and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care to identify proposed changes to the allied health occupation classifications, and consider what changes are acceptable to the ABS.
A final consultation round in 2024 will allow an opportunity to provide feedback on the complete set of proposed changes prior to the ABS finalising the classification update for release by December 2024.
Updates to the classifications will be reflected progressively in official labour market statistics from August 2026. The updated classifications will be released by December 2024, in time for use by Census 2026.