MYEFO: aged care on-site pharmacists, new funding

The December mini budget includes an additional $600 million for the continuation of aged care reforms, and an update on the on-site pharmacist scheme.

This week’s mini budget includes $596 million over four years from this financial year and $27.3 million per year ongoing to continue the government’s aged care reform program in response to recommendations from the royal commission.

Over a third of the additional funding – $202.4 million over four years from 2023–24 and $3.4 million per year ongoing – is for the support and delivery of ICT changes required for the new Aged Care Act from 1 July next year.

There’s also $85.6 million over four years and $10.8 million per year ongoing to develop and test a virtual nursing framework and refine the 24/7 registered nurse and care minute requirements. The latter includes an additional two years of exemptions for small providers unable to meet the 24/7 RN on-site obligation.

The measures extend those announced in the May 2023–24 Budget and the cost will be partially met from within the existing resourcing of the Department of Health and Aged Care, as the 2023‑24 Mid‑Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook delivered by Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers delivered on Wednesday shows.

Source: The 2023‑24 Mid‑Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook

On-site pharmacists commencing in next six months

MYEFO also shows the government “will amend the start date and funding model for access to pharmacists on-site in residential aged care.”

The government will provide “funding to community pharmacies in the first half of 2024 to employ pharmacists to work on-site in aged care homes in a clinical role,” according to the department’s Aged care on-site pharmacist webpage – which was updated on 13 December.

Primary Health Networks will be able to engage pharmacists on behalf of aged care homes to work on-site where community pharmacies are unable or unwilling to provide the services.

It is not compulsory for a facility to take up an on-site pharmacist, but Residential Medication Management Review and Quality Use of Medicines Program services from visiting pharmacists will be replaced for those that do, the department says on its website.

Australian Ageing Agenda has sought details on the scheme’s start date and funding model.

An on-site pharmacist program where every aged care facility would receive funding to employ or engage an on-site pharmacist or community pharmacy service was originally planned to start from 1 January 2023.

It was consulted on, delayed, then pushed back further and altered in April this year – contrary to the consultation options of giving funding directly to aged care homes or via PHNs – to provide funding to community pharmacies as part of Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler’s announcement about cheaper medicines.

Aged & Community Care Providers Association chief executive officer Tom Symondson said the peak had been proactively engaging with the government on this reform and welcomed its introduction.

Tom Symondson

“We’re pleased to note there is flexibility including the option for a residential aged care facility to take up an on-site pharmacist or receive Residential Medication Management Review and Quality Use of Medicines program services from visiting pharmacists,” Mr Symondson told AAA.

“Given the lack of qualified pharmacists for medication reviews, we continue to encourage government to consider measures that might increase the workforce of qualified pharmacists able to support the on-site pharmacist program.”

Elsewhere in welcoming MYEFO’s other funding to support “the transformation of the sector”, Mr Symondson called out the $2 billion announced two weeks ago to fully fund the July 5.75 per cent award increase for all aged care workers, and the measures to support nursing initiatives.

“ACCPA is also encouraged by the announcement of $85.6 million over four years to develop a framework for virtual nursing support in aged care, and for refinements of the 24/7 registered nurses and care minutes requirements.”

“We have been calling for a common-sense approach to an exemptions process for 24/7 onsite nurses, and the measure to extend exemptions for small providers contributes to that. These providers made a substantial effort during the 2023 exemptions application process, demonstrating alternative clinical models of care for their residents that ensure they are providing safe and high-quality care even if they can’t meet the legal requirements.”

He said he was hopeful that ACCPA’s consistent engagement with the government on these matters this year would “influence policy settings for staffing requirements, by acknowledging the role virtual nursing can play, as we continue to grapple with an aged care workforce crisis.”

Funding snapshot

Elsewhere related to residential aged care, MYEFO includes $11.8 million over two years to continue monitoring provider compliance with meeting the legislated 215 care minutes per day and 24/7 RN requirements.

Related to the aged care workforce, the mini budget includes:

  • $44.0 million this year for the Aged Care Registered Nurses’ Payment Program
  • $34.7 million this year for the recently announced funding of historical leave provisions following the Fair Work Commission’s Aged Care Work Value Case
  • $31.4 million over four years and $8.8 million per year ongoing for the Multi-Purpose Service Program and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program to fund the FWC’s wage review from 1 July 2023
  • $10 million to the states and territories this year for ICT and legislative reform to support development of national worker screening checks for aged care.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has picked up:

  • $69.4 million over three years to improve its ICT governance, delivery processes and internal cyber security capability
  • $42.7 million over four years to improve its system to better identify at-risk aged care service providers
  • $5.2 million this year to support the transition to a new regulatory model under the new Act.

Home care funding

MYEFO also includes the previously announced staged rollout of the Support at Home Program from 1 July 2025 with the Commonwealth Home Support Program to transition no earlier than 1 July 2027.

Elsewhere for home care is:

  • $30.8 million over two years to extend the additional 9,500 Home Care Packages provided into 2024–25 before gradually returning the number of packages to the baseline level as at 30 June 2023
  • $15.7 million over four years and $4.3 million per year ongoing to extend the Australian National Aged Care Classification assurance and compliance framework to the single assessment system from 1 July 2024
  • $12.2 million over two years to support the design and delivery of the new Support at Home Program to commence on 1 July 2025.

The papers also show the government will transfer management of the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service from the Department of Social Services to the Department of Health and Aged Care from 1 July 2024.

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Tags: budget, budget 2023-24, jim chalmers, myefo,

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