Residential Aged Care Facilities and General Practice: The current state of play

The demand for Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia has been steadily growing, with owners and managers of these facilities continually having to strive to find new ways to effectively address the needs of their residents.

Whether it’s a basic or a high-level need, general practitioners (GPs) play a vital role in aged care with general practice being one of the most essential components in the smooth and safe administration of RACFs.

In Australia aged care has always been given priority. In June 2014, Australian government-subsidised places were provided to more than 170,000 residents of RACFs. They belong to the 8.5% of Australians aged 70 years old and above who are now permanent residents in RACFs. However, the number of people living in RACFs has been forecasted to increase given the projected rise in life expectancy. This is also coupled with the expected increase in the proportion of Australians aged 65 years old and above from 15% in 2012 to 22% in 2061.

Each RACF resident has his or her own healthcare needs. Some residents require basic care, but there are also those who require high-level care. But regardless of the level of complexity of the need, General Practice services are needed in RACFs.

However, the provision of such services faces many challenges including limited availability of GPs, workforce shortages, and poor monetary compensation. In fact, RACF staff usually have difficulty contacting private GPs and this failure to access GPs has lead them to send residents to emergency departments (EDs) for healthcare. 40% of these cases are not admitted to hospitals due to the disproportionate representation of RACF residents in EDs. There is also a significant increase in after-hours and locum consultation rates, based on secondary data analysis of Medicare Benefits Schedule RACF items from 1998 to 2011.

This blog article was based on the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Silver Book and this research paper: Meade, C., Ward, B., & Cronin H. (2016). Implementation of a team model for RACF care by a general practice. 45(4). 218-222. Journal of Australian Family Practice. Retrieved from here