Greater prescribing rights for nurse practitioners and wage parity would improve aged care service delivery, the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) has said in its federal budget submission.
In its submission, the ANF referred to an unpublished report conducted by the Federal Government and ACT Health which found that nurse practitioners in aged care are “greatly hindered” by a lack of access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Medicare Benefits Schedule.
Presented to the Third Nurse Practitioners Conference in Perth last September, the paper suggested that nurse practitioners would not issue more scripts than general practitioners.
The ANF’s Acting Federal Scretary, Ged Kearney, told Australian Ageing Agenda that nurse practitioners are currently underutilised.
“We all know the GP workforce is stretched to the limit and it is very difficult for them to provide care to nursing home residents,” she said.
“Giving nurse practitioners these roles would also help to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions for elderly people.
“If you are over 65, the average length of a stay in hospital almost doubles so anything to reduce those incidents has to be encouraged.”
The ANF also called on the Federal Government to ensure there are appropriate numbers of “qualified nurses” working in aged care by providing support for more competitive wages.
“This is an issue now that everybody agrees needs to be addressed. Providers consumers and unions are all united on this,” said Ms Kearney.
“Now everyone needs to get together on this issue and say: ‘how are we going to do this?’”
The ANF estimated that the government would need to contribute $450 million to help achieve fairer salaries in aged care.
Ms Kearney said the union is confident that significant gains can be made in this area but stressed that any funding allocated to nurses’ pay must be monitored closely to ensure accountability.