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Changes to allow ENs to deliver RN care minutes not addressing the real issue says ANMF

Changes to allow ENs to deliver RN care minutes not addressing the real issue says ANMF

Under new changes announced in May, enrolled nurses will soon be recognised as delivering 10 per cent of care minute targets currently mandated for delivery by registered nurses. While the change shows the government is listening to nurses’ and carers’ concerns, it is not reflective of the real situation.

From 1 October 2024, the minimum average daily care minute requirements in residential aged care will increase from 200 to 215 minutes per resident per day. When initially announced by the Albanese federal government, this policy included a mandated minimum 44 minutes by a registered nurse. The newly revised policy documents now state that up to 10 per cent of these minutes (i.e. 4.4 minutes) will now be able to be provided by enrolled nurses.

The federal Department of Health and Aged Care’s website has also been updated to reflect the changes, noting that they may ‘improve recruitment and retention of these skilled workers’ and help services to deliver their care requirements ‘when facing workforce shortages’.

But while 10 per cent of 44 minutes is a step in acknowledging the vital role of ENs in residential aged care, it is not a step in the right direction.

ANMF’s concern, outlined in a letter sent to the Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells on 30 May, ‘is that while this change recognises the issues for ENs in aged care, it does not provide any long-term solutions … The unintended, but inevitable, consequences of this decision will create a different set of problems.’

The letter further clarifies for the Minister that the ANMF’s ‘view is that for the Government to meet its election commitment of guaranteeing safe, quality care for every older Australian in aged care, a core component of the solution for residential aged care is to specify and quarantine care minutes for ENs, which are in addition to not instead of, RN minutes.’

The letter follows an ANMF Federal Executive meeting in late May, which expressed its disappointment with the revised policy, saying ‘since the commencement of care minutes, we have observed the systematic dismantling of the EN workforce in many providers across this country, in an effort to reduce costs or increase profits.

‘The government’s recent announcements on EN minutes from 1 October goes someway to acknowledging the issues highlighted by the ANMF but does not provide the necessary solutions. Rather, this approach will have the unintended consequences of creating competition between RN and EN classifications, whilst it attempts to solve the competition previously created between care worker and EN classifications.

‘This government committed to meaningful skills mix in the aged care sector and the ANMF consider this a broken promise that ignores the care needs of our elderly.’

ANMF continues to engage with the government to advocate for additional RN care minutes and dedicated EN care minutes over and above the RN care minutes.