Value of exercise physiology and prevention recognised in Royal Commission into Aged Care Report

1 March 2021

Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) welcomed the release of the Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect  by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioners.

Throughout the Royal Commission, ESSA has been advocating for the physical and mental health of older Australians to be supported through greater access to exercise services delivered by Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs).

ESSA applauds Commissioner Pagone QC and Commissioner Briggs AO for recognising that, “People in aged care have limited access to services from allied health professionals, including …..exercise physiologists”.

The Report highlighted a 2018–19 survey in which only 2% of Home Care Package funding was spent on allied health. Similarly, the provision of allied health care in residential aged care was also deemed to be insufficient.

“We are pleased the Report builds on Commission’s Aged care and COVID-19: a special report which recommended allied health services for people living in residential aged care during the pandemic to prevent deterioration in their physical health,” notes Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

“It is gratifying to see the Report’s call for a restorative and preventative approach to care and for funding to allied health and specifically exercise physiology services to reflect the outcomes and preferences of older Australians, including those living at home.”

ESSA strongly supports the Commissioners’ views that providers should be incentivised to provide wellness, reablement and restorative treatments which help restore and maintain overall health and that the funding for this care should be separate from ongoing maintenance care needs.

“ESSA has long campaigned about the current disincentives for wellness and reablement in the Aged Care Funding Instrument. We are delighted that the Commissioners have recognised the evidence supporting how access to structured exercise therapy can help older Australians maintain or improve their functional abilities and prevent deterioration. Specifically, we welcome Recommendation 38 from Commissioner Briggs that approved providers employ, or otherwise retain, at least one exercise physiologist,” adds Ms Hobson-Powell.

ESSA supports Recommendation 28 which calls for a single assessment process and we will continue to advocate for the inclusion of AEPs in aged care assessment teams and for the quality of the assessment process be improved, so that signs a client requires early intervention for restorative care services is captured to avoid premature and unnecessary transfers to home care packages or residential aged care facilities.

We are anticipating numerous consultation opportunities with the Department of Health where we will be continuing to advocate for better health outcomes for older Australians and for our members.

We will also be closely reviewing the Australian Government’s response to the Royal Commission Report to identify further opportunities to work with and inform the Government on areas it intends to progress, including the development of an aged care workforce strategy.

With the Royal Commission highlighting the need for significant workforce improvements in aged care service delivery including additional staff, qualifications, professionalism and training, ESSA will continue to develop resources and training opportunities to support our members to optimise employment opportunities in the aged care sector.

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