Aged-Care contract recognises NPs

1 July 2010

Writing nurse practitioners into the residential aged-care services contract is being welcomed as a positive step forward.

Aged-care NP Michal Boyd said she was delighted by the move to allow NPs as well as GPs to assess residents under the national contract. But she added there was still a further step to go so independent NPs could access health funding to carry out such work.

BUPA chief executive Dwayne Crombie, one of the advocates for including NPs in the residential aged-care contract, was also pleased by the move as he said they were keen to see the development of NPs in aged-care.

Chris Fleming, lead district health board chief executive for aged-care, said it had revised the 2010 Age Related Residential Care (AARC) contract to recognise NPs’ right to carry out roles – like the assessment of newly admitted residents – that formerly had to be carried out by a GP.

He said the change would allow residential aged-care providers to look at the future role NPs could play as the NP workforce developed in the sector.

Boyd said the first hurdle for NP integration into residential aged-care was to have the contract changed. This had taken place, opening the way for new partnerships in the care of older residents.

However she said the major stumbling block remaining was there appeared to still be no funding stream for NPs to be paid as independent practitioners for such work. She said GPs or midwives could access general medical services (GMS) funding for patient visits or GPs could access capitated funding as part of a primary health organisation. But NPs currently did not have access to these funding streams so the only way an NP could get paid was for the facility to pay.

Crombie said at a practical level the sector struggled in some areas to attract GPs, so NPs could provide another alternative.

He added that creating a NP workforce to carry out this role would not happen overnight but organisations like his, as well as district health boards, would need to be more hands-on to develop and build the aged-care workforce over the next 10 years. He said also as the sector developed more nurse specialist and NP roles in aged-care, the more likely young nurses were to look at aged-care as a career option.