Allied health services in residential aged care facilities
1 July 2021 to 31 December 2022
North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) has commissioned a new program to deliver allied health services into residential aged care facilities (RACFs). This project is funded by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care.
RACFs in our region were heavily impacted by COVID-19 outbreaks and stay-at-home restrictions in 2020. During this period, residents were largely restricted to their rooms. Access to the outside world and normal exercise was not possible.
In 2021, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care determined that RACFs with 2 or more cases of COVID-19 as of 23 October 2020 were eligible to participate in this program. Fifty-four were identified in NWMPHN’s region.
NWMPHN commissioned multiple allied health providers to deliver group therapy programs to these eligible RACFs in 2021-2022, aiming to improve physical function of residents at risk of deconditioning due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In response to positive outcomes emerging in the first round of the program, and with many more affected RACFs in the region to service, we commissioned a second round of activity in April 2022, funded through another funding schedule. This was opened to a broader list of facilities in our region based on population health needs. With the extension of the program timeline for the original program, a third, shorter round started in August 2022 under the original Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care Allied Health funding package. The second and third rounds will finish in December 2022.
The current commissioned providers (see below) deliver group therapy sessions based on the Sunbeam Program, which has been proven effective in preventing falls in older adults. Group therapy sessions run twice a week for up to 6 months, with group sizes up to 4 residents per session.
As part of the program’s evaluation, allied health providers are required to take measurements at set intervals to monitor progress.
This commissioned activity aims to improve physical functioning of eligible RACF residents at risk of deconditioning due to COVID-19 restrictions. This will be achieved through the implementation of an intensive group therapy program delivered by allied health professionals and based on the Sunbeam Program.
There are additional expected outcomes for the many stakeholders involved. These are:
For RACF residents:
- increased access to allied health services
- improved overall health outcomes due to physical reconditioning
- more opportunities for social interaction and engagement.
- improved health outcomes and experiences for residents
- access to group therapy for residents at no cost
- increased awareness and access to allied health services within their facility
- strengthened relationships with allied health providers.
For allied health providers:
- increased capacity to deliver evidence-based group therapy programs to older adult populations
- opportunity to lead group therapy and contribute towards better health outcomes for RACF residents
- collection and contribution of robust data that can add to the evidence base and help inform future allied health funding models
- strengthened relationships with RACFs.