System shake up required

Disbanding the ACAR and unbundling care and accommodation costs area among a number of suggestions in a Productivity Commission report on how the industry can meet the challenges of an ageing population.

A report into future trends in aged care services has suggested doing away with the current aged care planning and allocations process in a bid to simplify the system for consumers.

Instead, the paper suggests a system in which aged care assessment teams would be the sole gate-keepers of aged care places.

This is just one of a number of key policy suggestions outlined in the report from the Productivity Commission which examines ways in which the industry can respond to demographic change in coming decades.

The report notes that there will be a significant increase in demand for aged care services, with the number of people aged over 85 set to undergo a four-fold increase before the middle of the century.
And while it is expected that there will be an increase in the proportion of frail older people with complex health conditions, the preference for independent, de-institutionalised living options is also tipped to rise.

But the report warns that a predicted shortfall in the number of informal carers by 2031 could jeopardise the viability of community care, forcing clients back into nursing homes.

In response to these predicted changes, the report recommends a move towards consumer-directed care and an unbundling of accommodation, everyday living and personal costs to provide a fairer pricing system.

“Unbundling provides scope to more accurately price the individual components to
better reflect their underlying cost; better target government subsidies to those most
in need; and overcome some of the inequities between users of residential and community care,” the report said.

“However, unbundling raises a number of implementation issues that would require resolution if this approach were to be introduced.”

Addressing current workforce trends, the report calls for a “significant expansion in the aged care workforce”.

One strategy it recommends is to extend the training and workplace responsibilities of registered and enrolled nurses.

“This primarily involves making the most of the skills and experience of workers in relation to the broad range of functions associated with the delivery of aged care services, while still ensuring the safety and quality of care provided to clients,” the report said.

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