17 December 2021

‘Glaring oversight’: no GP rep on aged care council

Aged Care Political TheHill

The newly appointed National Aged Care Advisory Council is tasked with rebuilding the industry but has little primary care representation.

Seventeen “prominent Australians” have been chosen for the National Aged Care Advisory Council, the group tasked with implementing the $17.7 billion industry reforms. 

At least six of the prominent Australians are currently, or have previously, worked at the executive level of an aged care provider. 

None of the prominent Australians are a nurse, GP or pharmacist, nor are any of them there representing, nurses, GPs or pharmacists.

The balance of the council is made up of executives from various government and industry bodies, including Dementia Australia, Councils on the Ageing and Carers Australia, the peak body for unpaid carers. 

There’s also a speech pathologist and a nutrition researcher. 

Melbourne-based geriatrician Associate Professor Michael Murray is the only clinician on the council. 

The group is tasked with advising the ministers for health and aged care how to best implement the reforms recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Findings from the Royal Commission, released in March of this year, were particularly critical of aged care providers. 

Despite disagreeing on certain details, both commissioners strongly recommended establishing an independent oversight body which would be able to better approve, accredit and regulate providers.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price said residential aged care has traditionally been in the scope of care for general practice.

She also pointed out that most people accessing aged care still live in the community: of the 1,000,000 older Australians accessing federally funded aged care services, about 840,000 use Commonwealth Home Support

“Currently the majority of aged care services is community care, delivered largely by community general practice in the older person’s own dwelling,” Dr Price said. 

“If we want to fix the problems with our current aged care system and ensure older people receive the high-quality care they deserve, GPs must be included in the process.

“To leave us without a seat at the table is a glaring oversight.”

Australian College of Nursing CEO Adjuct Professor Kylie Ward was also unimpressed by the lack of a nursing representative. 

“The National Aged Care Advisory Council’s current membership prioritises the interests of aged care providers over nurses who provide clinical care to residents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” she told TMR

“I am extremely concerned nurses have once again been excluded from those advising government, even after the Aged Care Royal Commission highlighted just how critical our expertise is to improving the health and wellbeing of our nation’s older Australians.”

A Department of Health spokesperson told The Medical Republic that the makeup of the council “draws upon specific expertise of individuals known for previous and current contributions” to the aged care sector. 

“The composition of the advisory council focuses on achieving a balance of expertise across a number of areas of aged care such as home and community care, residential care, consumer’s experience, clinical expertise, quality and safety,” they said. 

The spokesperson also added that the government consults directly with the workforce through the Australian College of Nursing as well as the nurses’ union.