Nursing care minutes at historic high but allied health care minutes decline

Published 16 April 2024

AHPA response to Minister Wells’ media release on aged care reforms

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells’ media release on 11 April refers to older Australians in aged care homes now receiving historic levels of care, with an increase of 20 total care minutes per day since 2020-21.

What the Minister does not say is that this refers to only nursing and personal care minutes. Unfortunately, three years on from the Royal Commission, allied health care minutes are at an historic low:   

  • The most recent Quarterly Financial Snapshot reports that an average of 4.21 minutes of allied health care is now provided to an aged care resident – just over half of the Royal Commission’s figure. 
  • The Independent Hospital and Aged Care Pricing Authority’s most recent Residential Aged Care Costing Study, which directly recorded the minutes of allied health care, found even less than 4.21 minutes. 
  • Quarterly Financial Reporting has continued to find that minutes for some individual allied health professions are so low that only four professions are able to be individually represented in the statistics. 
  • Findings range from 0.06 minutes (3.6 seconds) for speech pathology to 2.75 minutes for physiotherapy. Occupational therapy and allied health assistant time is too low to be recorded. 

In a 2023 AHPA survey of aged care allied health professionals, just over half of respondents said their role had changed since introduction of the Australian National Aged Care Classification mechanism (AN-ACC). Of those respondents, almost one in five had lost their role and 48% had their hours decreased. 

At a recent allied health roundtable consumers shared the challenges accessing allied health services in residential aged care facilities, with some consumers paying for services out of pocket. Future residential aged care costings studies need to include a comprehensive costing assessment of allied health service provision. This should be based on a nationally consistent process of assessment of individual needs, as recommended by the Aged Care Royal Commission. 

As the Royal Commission also recommended, costs of these allied health services should generally be met by aged care providers. 

Simply focusing on nursing and personal care minutes is insufficient if we are to achieve accessible, high-quality, comprehensive health care to older people in residential aged care. Allied health service provision according to need must be funded, in the same way as nursing and personal care