Personal care work in residential aged care is ‘a subset of nursing work’ and should be regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), ANMF (Vic Branch) Assistant Secretary Paul Gilbert told the aged care royal commission.
In evidence to the royal commission’s workforce hearing on 16 October, Mr Gilbert said personal care workers carry out work delegated by nurses, according to care plans created by nurses. As registered nurses are professionally obliged to delegate only to people who are competent to do the work, personal care workers should have to be registered with AHPRA.
Mr Gilbert said this would mean that the Certificate III course, and the institutions that deliver personal care workers’ qualifications, would need to be approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, adding an assurance of safety and quality to the personal care workforce.
‘Criminal police checks have a place but what professional registration achieves is a “fit and proper person” kind of test,’ Mr Gilbert said. The requirement for a police check arose because a carer assaulted a resident but the carer had no prior criminal history.
In a written submission to the royal commission, Mr Gilbert said the primary purpose of any form of regulation should be the protection of the public from harm.
‘The provision of nursing in aged care by necessity involves unsupervised and intimate care of vulnerable persons who are reliant on that care, and in many cases unable to make any real personal choice as to who provides that care, nor complain about inappropriate care,’ Mr Gilbert wrote.
As an example of how registration provides accountability within the nursing profession, Mr Gilbert told the royal commission that, as a nurse, he could be sanctioned by AHPRA for spreading false information about the impacts of vaccination and encouraging people to not get vaccinated, which is a much lower bar than a criminal history check.
Registration for personal care workers would contribute to the ANMF’s vision of an aged care workforce that was well-paid, proud and had the trust and confidence of the community.
ANMF (Vic Branch) believes that aged care staff who deliver nursing care should hold a Certificate III qualification as a minimum education standard. However, some aged care employers are still not requiring personal care workers to have a minimum Certificate III qualification to avoid having to pay carers the rates set out in enterprise agreements for Certificate III-qualified staff, Mr Gilbert said.
Funding for aged care education
Mr Gilbert’s submission to the aged care royal commission acknowledged that paying for registration and meeting a minimum qualification would be a barrier for personal care workers given the low wages in the sector. The Federal Government should meet those costs rather than individual carers.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Assistant Secretary speaking at the aged care royal commission about why ANMF supports AHPRA-regulation of personal care workers. (Video taken from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety website.)
Mr Gilbert’s evidence is available in transcript or video formats at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety website.