Better Access to Exercise Physiology the Solution to Over-servicing in Aged Care

Monday 21 March, 2022

An article in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald here outlined the Australian Government’s concerns with over-servicing by physiotherapists in aged care.

The article referred to a Department of Health statement about concerns with “the perverse incentives to deliver treatments that are not clinically appropriate in order to maximise funding, such as providing massages for residents with paper-thin skin”.

“For over ten years, Exercise & Sports Australia [ESSA] has had concerns with the way the current Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) incentivises pain management treatments (e.g. massage therapy) that are not clinically effective. The current model does not compensate providers to deliver high quality clinical and cost effective allied health treatment that actually makes a difference in managing pain and maintaining or improving physical functioning”, says Ms Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA’s CEO.

The Aged Care Royal Commission highlighted that the level of allied healthcare offered in residential aged care is insufficient. Commissioner Briggs recommended a level of allied healthcare appropriate to each person’s needs be provided through employing or engaging a range of individual allied health professionals including exercise physiologists.

“It is critical that any new aged care funding model supports access evidence based exercise physiology treatments which improve cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and balance; and decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain. For too long, too many older Australians have been left suffering. They have been denied adequate access to exercise physiology which was recommended to be funded in two reviews in 2011 and 2017.”

Funding a model which adequately funds allied healthcare based on holistic clinical care needs and incentivises wellness and reablement will remove the incentive to deliver treatments that are clinically ineffective to maximise funding.

Mandating access to allied healthcare is one of ESSA’s federal election priorities and is consistent with calls for dedicated allied health funding from leading academics including Professor Kathy Eagar, Director of the University of Wollongong’s Australian Health Services Research Institute.

ESSA supports allied health care being delivered by tertiary trained professionals who have the clinical expertise to prevent, assess, treat and monitor chronic diseases and injuries and deliver good health outcomes for older Australians.  

For more information:
Zoe Bickerstaffe
ESSA Marketing & Communications Manager
E: media@essa.org.au
P: 07 3171 3335