Aged care component added to college MBS tool

Matt Woodley

6/01/2021 3:44:20 PM

The RACGP guide will make it easier for GPs to navigate new aged care item numbers added late last year.

Doctor and older woman
The additional item numbers were created following the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s special report into COVID-19.

The item numbers, which mostly relate to mental health treatment planning and review for care recipients in aged care facilities, were added in December as part of the Federal Government’s Better Access initiative.
Of the new items available for mental health treatment planning and review, 19 relate to general practice. However, the RACGP’s new guide also includes information on item numbers that existed before the latest round of additions, and allows GPs to enter fees for services provided in their practice and calculate patient out-of-pocket contributions.
The additional item numbers were created on the back of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s special report into COVID-19, and were announced late last year alongside expanded access to 20 individual psychological therapy sessions per year.
According to the Government’s progress report, the psychological services can be provided by eligible GPs, psychologists, social workers or occupational therapists, in accordance with a mental health treatment plan developed in consultation with the patient’s GP or psychiatrist.
Professor Dimity Pond, a GP with a special interest in aged care, told newsGP the extension of item numbers for mental health and psychology services, for both GPs and allied health providers, is welcome news to residents.
‘People in facilities need psychologists,’ she said. ‘Especially after COVID lockdowns and being isolated from their families for long periods of time.’
To help support the introduction of the new allied health item numbers, the Government has also flagged the creation of a GP education package delivered through Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
The package will be aimed at raising awareness of the importance of ensuring people in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) can access necessary allied health services, with a focus on the role of allied health in supporting people with dementia.
‘We could all do with additional thinking about the local allied health providers and what they can offer our older patients,’ Professor Pond said.
‘It is sometimes hard to find an allied health provider who services older people in residential aged care, so from that perspective it would also be good.’
Existing flag fall items for GPs attending RACFs in person for the purpose of providing chronic disease management services will also be extended as part of the recommendations.
Dr Sachin Patel, the founder of an aged care GP service, told newsGP the mental health additions are ‘excellent’, but said issues remain and he would like to see more detail before forming a final conclusion.
‘The devil’s in the detail with all of this. Often, there are soundbites and commitments to do stuff, but when it comes to the detail it can be quite lacking,’ he said.
‘The challenge now is also actually getting people who are willing to see residents in aged care, but that’s a better quality problem to have – at least the funding’s there.’
Dr Patel also said extra infection control safeguards will be ‘really handy’, especially as he has noticed some complacency creeping in around COVID-19.
‘If the funds are put to the intended use with the correct level of expertise, then you’d expect quite a lot of flow on benefits around infectious disease,’ he said.
‘That could be communicable illnesses like gastro and flu, but maybe even treating wounds and combatting some of the resistant bugs would benefit as well.
‘If we’re really, really, really determined about how we approach it, then I think there are a lot of other potential benefits.
‘But the danger right now, for any of us doing anything with aged care, is complacency. Many people are talking about “during COVID time” as if it was before. But we’re in it still, and we mustn’t forget that.’
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