A message from Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan – December 2022

A newsletter from Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan with updates from the nursing and midwifery sector, some personal priorities and highlights, and an insight on what's happening across the Department of Health and Aged Care.

Date published:
Health sector

Hello and welcome to my new and improved newsletter. Each month I will share updates from the nursing and midwifery sector, some personal priorities and highlights and give you insight on what's happening across the Department of Health and Aged Care. I would also like to hear about what you would like to see in my newsletter, so I will be including polls in future editions. I wish everyone a wonderful December and festive season, and I look forward to connecting with you in the new year. 

For more updates from the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, follow Alison on LinkedIn.

Value of registered nurses in aged care recognised

Registered nurses provide excellence in clinical leadership across aged care and play a critical role in delivering safe and high quality care to older Australians.

24/7 registered nurses and care minutes requirements

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring better access to clinical care for residents in aged care homes. Funding of $2.5 billion in the 2022-23 October Budget will support aged care homes to deliver more care minutes to residents and have a registered nurse onsite 24/7.

From 1 October 2023, residential aged care homes will be required to deliver an average of 200 care minutes per resident per day, including 40 minutes with a registered nurse. From 1 October 2024, this requirement will increase to an average of 215 care minutes per resident per day, including 44 minutes with a registered nurse. Care minutes are the direct care time delivered to residents by registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers.

Find out more about the 24/7 registered nurse and care minutes requirements, including the activities residential aged care homes can report as care minutes, in the Care minutes and 24/7 nursing requirements guide.

Aged Care Registered Nurses’ Payment
Applications are now open for the Aged Care Registered Nurses’ Payment. Aged care providers can apply on behalf of their eligible staff through Grant Connect until 14 December 2022.

This payment is available to registered nurses working in residential aged care, in-home care and Commonwealth Home Support Programme settings.
Registered nurses must have worked with the same aged care provider over the eligibility period. The periods for the first round of payments are: 

  • 1 November 2021 – 31 October 2022
  • 1 May 2022 – 31 October 2022.

Up to $6,000 is available for full-time registered nurses with payments also available on a pro-rata basis for eligible part-time nurses.

The payment also further recognises and rewards nurses who work in rural towns and communities, and in remote and very remote communities. Nurses who complete formal post-graduate qualifications or take on additional responsibilities such as management, training and Infection Prevention and Control are also recognised.

The payment is one of the Government’s initiatives to build and support registered nurses in aged care. Through the aged care reforms, the Government is boosting the skills of nurses and other aged care workers through training programs, scholarships, mentoring of new nurses and supporting clinical placements.

More information on the Aged Care Registered Nurses’ Payment is on the Department of Health and Aged Care website. 

Strengthening Medicare Taskforce

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP, established the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce (Taskforce) to provide recommendations on the highest priority investments in primary care by the end of 2022, supported by the $750 million Strengthening Medicare Fund.
Nursing is well represented on the Taskforce, with the Minister appointing the Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Ms Annie Butler and the President of the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association, Ms Karen Booth. I was also appointed by the Minister as a permanent observer on the Taskforce.
The Taskforce met on 4 November 2022 to consider ways to encourage and facilitate multidisciplinary care, including how we can harness the full skills of nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals.
On 25 November 2022, the Taskforce met and discussed the sustainability of primary care business models, ensuring that they are fit-for-purpose to respond to today’s health needs, particularly for older Australians, people with complex and chronic conditions and those who live in rural/regional Australia and other contexts.
In December 2022, the Taskforce will meet to finalise recommendations to Government on the highest priorities to strengthen Medicare. The Taskforce will provide their recommendations to government at the end of the year. The government will respond to these recommendations through the 2023-24 Budget process.

Details of the Taskforce including communiques can be found on the website.

Investment in a National Nurse and Midwife Health Service

The Australian Government will invest $25.2 million to establish and deliver a National Nurse and Midwife Health Service (NNMHS). It will provide free counselling and health support for nurses, midwives and nursing and midwifery students. As announced in the October 2022-23 Federal Budget, funding will be provided to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) to deliver the Service.

The NNMHS will provide a welcoming, soft entry point for nurses, midwives and students with a range of health concerns. The services will be delivered by clinicians including registered nurses, enrolled nurses, nurse practitioners and midwives. The clinicians will provide a tailored, case managed service and will assist with specialist referrals where required.
The NNMHS will be modelled on Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV), a not-for-profit service supporting nurses in Victoria since 2006. The Service will operate through four central hub locations, including Victoria-Tasmania, New South Wales-Australian Capital Territory, South Australia-Western Australia and Queensland-Northern Territory, as well as additional regional offices. Clinicians will be available to provide telephone consultations, making support more accessible to those in rural, regional and remote locations.

Work will commence shortly on the national roll out framework, led by the ANMF in consultation with the Australian and state and territory governments, key service providers and nursing peaks.

Ged Kearney MP visiting the Victoria Nursing and Midwifery Health Program.

Have your say on the draft Australian Cancer Plan

Cancer Australia is inviting your feedback on the public consultation for the Australian Cancer Plan (ACP), which sets a 10-year plan to provide lasting change and improve outcomes for all people affected by cancer.

The consultation on the draft ACP presents the opportunity for all Australians to comment on a ground-breaking national cancer strategy that sets out and addresses priority areas, objectives and actions in cancer control. To make a difference we need coordinated system-wide engagement.

Cancer Australia invites all Australians to share feedback on the draft Australian Cancer Plan. To provide your feedback, visit engage.australiancancerplan.gov.au

Public consultation will close on 16 December 2022

National guiding principles to improve the quality and safety of medication management

The Department of Health and Aged Care, in collaboration with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, has updated and published the national guiding principles to improve the quality and safety of medication management. These 2022 Guiding Principles publications are tailored for different settings:  

Note: This is targeted for transition points in care, when patients move between different parts of the health and care system, such as when they leave hospital.

The 2022 Guiding Principles publications promote best practice, and the application of these principles must consider relevant national, state and territory legislative requirements, profession-specific licensing/registration, codes of practice, guidelines and standards, and aged care quality and accreditation standards and requirements.

The 2022 Guiding Principles publications and the associated glossary and fact sheets are intended for use by all Quality Use of Medicines partners, including government, healthcare professionals (including nurses) and providers, the individual, their carer and/or family, and others. Recognising the increasing and unique role that nurses play in the delivery of health care across a range of settings (including RACFs), there is tailored guidance for nurses in these documents. This best-practice guidance will assist nurses to improve medication management, whether prescribing, administering or monitoring medicines in patients.

The 2022 Guiding Principles publications build on their previous editions and are underpinned by Australia’s National Medicines Policy, which is currently being reviewed.  

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care led the review of the existing Guiding Principles, collaborating closely with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Public consultation included more than 80 peak organisations and experts involved in medication management, individuals receiving care, and healthcare professionals, including registered nurses, doctors and pharmacists. 

The 2022 Guiding Principles publications have been published on the Department’s website, and can be found on the National Medicines Policy Resources Collection page. 

New online User Guide for Reviewing Clinical Variation

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care User Guide for Reviewing Clinical Variation is now available in a new interactive online format, making it easier for health services to use data to support appropriate care and access practical case studies.

Regular reviews of clinical variation data to investigate and reduce unwarranted variation are a requirement of the Clinical Governance Standard in the National Safety and Quality in Health Services Standards.

To implement Action 1.28, a health service organisation needs to collect data on its own clinical care processes or outcomes, and compare its performance to other services and/or evidence-based guidelines or clinical care standards.

The User Guide can support clinicians to use a clinical variation approach to align health care with patients’ needs and prevent harm, as well as focus on the most effective care and reduce unnecessary treatment.

Six-step approach to reviewing clinical variation
The User Guide presents a six-step approach to using clinical variation data to improve care. This format makes is easier to find the information you need. The steps are: 

  1. Select priority areas for exploring variation
  2. Plan the project
  3. Measure and review your data
  4. Explore reasons for variation
  5. Act to improve care
  6. Monitor and report on impact of improvement activities.

Case studies put steps into action 
Practical case studies showcase best practice and innovation in the review of clinical variation, across healthcare settings. They include topics ranging from hip fracture surgery, stroke, cardiac events and colonoscopy, as well as new case studies on perineal trauma in childbirth, reducing preterm and planned early term births and improving end-of-life care.

If you have a case study suggestion or would like more information, please email Atlas@safetyandquality.gov.au

Free Equip Aged Care Learning Packages

Free online learning modules to support aged care workers are now available through the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre.

Funded by the Department of Health and Aged Care, the Equip Aged Care Learning Packages cover 14 contemporary topics in aged care. The modules are designed for direct care workers (including nurses), volunteers, caregivers and anyone with an interest in improving care for older people.

The first 6 learning modules are available now, and provide an overview of the:

  • Australian aged care system
  • role of nurses, personal care workers and allied health professionals working in aged care
  • Aged Care Quality Standards
  • Palliative and End-of-life Care
  • Person-centred care
  • Supporting people living with dementia.

The rest of the modules will be rolled out progressively, with all modules anticipated to be available by March 2023.

Register and enrol for these modules at Equip Aged Care Learning (utas.edu.au).

For further enquiries, email equip.learning@utas.edu.au

National Strategy for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer

We have been working closely with the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer on the development of a National Strategy to Eliminate Cervical Cancer (Strategy). As many of you are aware, with our world class vaccination and screening programs, Australia is on its way to eliminating cervical cancer as a public health problem. However, there is still much work to be done in order to achieve equity across priority populations and especially within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where incidence and mortality rates are much higher. Many of you may have contributed to the initial consultation so I am pleased to say that the draft Strategy has now opened for public consultation and you can have your say by clicking here.

Have your say to inform the National Dementia Action Plan. 

The 10-year plan is a joint initiative between the Australian Government, and state and territory governments.

The National Dementia Action Plan will provide a vision where Australians understand dementia – people living with dementia and their carers have the best quality of life possible and no one walks the dementia journey alone. It will mean better coordinated approaches to dementia risk reduction, early diagnosis and improvements in services for people living with dementia and their carers.

We want to ensure that the voices of people with lived experience of dementia and those involved in their care are reflected in Australia’s priorities for action on dementia over the next 10 years, including:

  • people who work in primary care, health, acute or aged care
  • people living with dementia
  • their carers, families and friends
  • researchers and academics.

Your views will help us take action,

Visit consultations.health.gov.au
Email dementiaplan@health.gov.au
Call 1800 565 789 to provide feedback over the phone or request a hard copy

Public consultation will close on 31 January 2023.

2023 specialties for the Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing offered via ACU Online in 2023.

ACU Online courses are designed for online learning, delivered via a purpose-built, innovative learning management system by academic staff trained in online teaching. Course content is presented in manageable 8-week terms with a range of interactive resources to guide students through each unit.

For further details on ACUO offerings, please see ACUOnline.

Support services for healthcare workers.

The Black Dog Institute’s The Essential Network (TEN) provides a blended care mental health support service for healthcare workers that offers specialist, individualised mental health advice. To find out out more about this service visit their website.
The Department of Health and Aged Care has funded initiatives to embed mental health skills in the broader health workforce. Resources such as the Mental Health Professional's Network (MHPN) supports the health workforce through delivery of professional multidisciplinary and intra-professional networks and online development programs and webinars for health and mental health practitioners – such as mental health nurses and special interest groups – who support people with or at risk of mental illness. Visit the MHPN website for more information.
Nurses and midwives can also access digital mental health services available to the broader community by visiting headtohealth.gov.au. These services are free or low cost, and cover a range of counselling, treatment and crisis support services.

November highlights

I recently had the pleasure of attending a dinner in honour of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) in Brisbane. The AHPPC is the key decision-making committee for health emergencies, and is made up of state and territory Chief Health Officers. The committee has been front and centre in the pandemic response since 2020. Thank you to Her Excellency Dr Jeannette Young and Professor Graeme Nimmo for hosting a wonderful evening. 

I was joined by nurses from the Department of Health and Aged Care at the Australian College of Nursing’s 10 Year Anniversary Gala Dinner. From left to right: Helen Masotti, Shefu Singh, Mahalia Stanley, Helen Frazer, Carole Davis, Prof Alison McMillan, Prof Brendan Murphy, Frances Rice, Karen Cook, Kate Lehmensich, Brody Bamford.

Senior Midwifery Advisor, Kellie Wilton recently travelled to PNG as part of a joint midwifery leadership capacity building project supported by the Australian College of Midwives (ACM), the PNG Midwifery Society (PNGMS) and the Rotary Club of Morialta.

For more updates from the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, follow Alison on LinkedIn.

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