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Department says limited registration therapists can provide pain treatments


Allied health professionals certified with limited registration from their professional body are eligible to provide complex pain management services in residential aged care, the Department of Health has ruled.

The confirmation has been welcomed by the aged care allied health professional community, which experienced two weeks of uncertainty after the department published advice to the contrary on 22 November.

That advice said allied health professionals issued with a “limited” registration by their relevant national board did not meet the requirements to provide pain management treatments under Aged Care Funding Instrument items 12.4a and 12.4b (read more here.)

However, following reports by Australian Ageing Agenda and lobbying from allied health professionals and their peak bodies and aged care peaks, the department withdrew the advice on 29 November to consult with the stakeholders (read more here).

Based on those consultations, the department has decided limited registration allied health professionals are eligible to provide complex pain management services under ACFI, it said in a further update published last Friday.

“Allied health professionals with limited registration are eligible to write directives and provide pain management services under ACFI 12.4a and b provided that they are operating within their scope of practice and being supervised according to the terms of their registration,” according to the latest advice.

The update also said that providers must ensure that health professionals delivering treatments under these ACFI items were appropriately skilled, qualified and acting within their scope of practice to deliver the services as specified in the directive.

Australian Physiotherapy Association national president Phil Calvert said APA was thrilled the department had responded to the advice and strong lobbying.

“In many respects it is an outcome that should never have been in jeopardy,” Mr Calvert told AAA.

“Limited registration physios have been working under ACFI 12.4a and b delivering pain management treatment for some time without safety or quality concerns raised by either their employers or Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.”

He said APA would continue to encourage the department to consult about any further aspects of funding to avoid the uncertainty within the sector this decision initially caused.

Alwyn Blayse, who is CEO of allied health company Allied Aged Care, welcomed the news and the certainty for the 12 limited registration allied health therapists he employs to work in aged care in regional Queensland.

“I am cautiously very relieved to hear this decision has been reversed,” Mr Blayse told AAA.

“However I think the wider issue is looking at the process whereby the decision was made in the first place, learning from this and improving communication between the Department of Health and allied health moving forward.”

Aged care peaks pleased with outcome

The turnaround has also been welcomed by aged care peak bodies Ages and Community Services Australia and Leading Age Services Australia, which also lobbied the department.

ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow said she was pleased the department responded to concerns that changing these requirements would adversely impact access to important pain management treatments, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas.

“This decision recognises the need to provide access to vital pain management treatments and ensures continuity of care for those older Australians requiring those services,” Ms Sparrow told AAA.

Similarly, LASA CEO Sean Rooney said he welcomed the ruling, which would have presented particular problems in areas with a shortage of physiotherapists.

“We are satisfied the department has addressed the main concerns of our members who are now better placed to deliver the services older Australians need,” Mr Rooney told AAA.

Read the department’s full update here.

Related coverage

ACFI update challenges pain management practices

Department backflips on ACFI pain ruling

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