The Federal Government has announced a $537 million funding package in response to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s Interim Report, including $496.3 million for an additional 10,000 home care packages, $25.5 million for aged care medication management programs, and $10 million for additional dementia training and support for aged care workers and providers.
The funding covers the three priority areas for immediate action identified in the Interim Report, including reducing chemical restraints, increasing home care packages and getting younger people out of residential aged care.
Dementia Australia calls for more
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe has welcomed the Government’s initial action in addressing the three priority areas, but said further action was vital.
“The additional 10,000 home care packages are urgently needed, especially those weighted towards level 3 and level 4 packages but there is still a 120,000 strong waiting list and a lack of uncertainty for all those impacted,” Ms McCabe said.
“Whilst the additional $10 million for [dementia] training announced is welcome, more funding is needed to train the more than 360,000 people working in the aged care sector,” Ms McCabe said. Furthermore, study and career pathways must also be established to encourage people to work in the sector.
“Dementia Australia continues to call for the introduction of mandatory dementia-specific training for the aged care workforce.”
The funding package
The Government’s $537 million funding package includes:
- $496.3 million for an additional 10,000 home care packages, strongly weighted towards level 3 and level 4 packages, which provide a high-level of care. The packages are being rolled out from 1 December 2019.
- $25.5 million to improve medication management programs to reduce the use of medication as a chemical restraint on aged care residents and at home, including support for pharmacists to ensure more frequent medication reviews can occur, and new restrictions and education for prescribers on the use of medication as a chemical restraint.
- $10 million for additional dementia training and support for aged care workers and providers, including to reduce the use of chemical restraint.
- $4.7 million to help meet new targets to remove younger people with disabilities from residential aged care. New targets will seek to ensure that no people under the age of 65 enter residential aged care by 2022; no people under the age of 45 are living in residential aged care by 2022; and no people under the aged of 65 are living in residential aged care by 2025.
In response to the Royal Commission identifying an over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care, from 1 January 2020 the Government will establish stronger safeguards and restrictions for the prescribing of repeat prescriptions of risperidone.
Doctors will still be able to prescribe it but will be required to apply for additional approval if risperidone is to be prescribed beyond an initial 12-week period.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt said these changes were developed following recommendations from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, and in collaboration with doctors’ groups and the broader health sector.
Education resources for prescribers will also be developed to support the appropriate use of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care and targeted letters will be sent to high prescribers. Amendments to regulations will make it clear that restraint must only be used as a last resort.
The Government has also responded to the Royal Commission’s findings on antipsychotics in aged care facilities by declaring ‘Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety’ as a National Health Priority.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the additional $10 million for dementia training will be made available over two years, from 2019-2020, to increase dementia training and support for aged care workers and health sector staff.
“This will better equip them to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, deliver best practice dementia care and comply with the new standards for reducing the use of physical and chemical restraints in aged care,” Mr Morrison said.
The Royal Commission’s final report is due on 12 November 2020.