Nurses play a pivotal role in the development, implementation and assessment of quality and safety in aged care and their omission from the recently appointed Aged Care Quality Advisory Council is “a great oversight,” according to Sue Macri, former associate commissioner on the Productivity Commission’s aged care inquiry and expert on aged care standards.
While the members of the council were all highly respected, it was disappointing and concerning that none of Australia’s many highly regarded nurse leaders who have comprehensive backgrounds in quality and safety would have input on the council, Ms Macri told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The membership of the council, announced by Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield in late February, includes provider and consumer representatives, as well as a psychiatrist and a GP.
The council is to provide advice to the Federal Government and the Aged Care Quality Agency on the agency’s functions and operations.
The board of the former Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency previously had members from nursing backgrounds, such as Professor Barbara Horner, Professor Rhonda Nay and Dr Sally Goold.
Ms Macri, a widely acknowledged authority on aged care standards, led the Macri Panel on Nursing Home Documentation and Accountability Report in 1995 and was involved in the National Review of Nursing Education in 2002 and the National Nursing and Nursing Education Taskforce in 2006. More recently she was an associate commissioner on the Productivity Commission’s wide-reaching inquiry into aged care in 2011.
In addition to the lack of nursing representation, Ms Macri said she was concerned that the council membership was “heavily weighted” towards dementia and mental health.
While this was understandable, “there are many residents who do not suffer from dementia and there needs to be a balance ensuring that those with complex care needs are not overlooked in the dementia-driven system,” she said.
“Having a good nurse clinician on the council with a well-rounded background in aged care quality and safety would ensure that people with non-dementia related morbidities are not overlooked,” she added.
Ms Macri also noted that the Federal Government had been slow to develop and release the new aged care quality indicators, which Senator Fifield has repeatedly said will help drive a new “market-based quality system” in aged care.
‘Extensive experience’: Fifield
Responding to Ms Macri’s comments on the lack of nursing representation on the council, Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield said the council members brought “extensive experience in dementia care, clinical care, home care and residential care of older Australians, and bring both consumer and provider perspectives.”
“The council will also be able to draw on a range of external expertise, including from the department’s senior nurse adviser, to enhance its work,” Senator Fifield told AAA.