Aged care ratios make economic sense

Sunday 16th December, 2018

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has released compelling evidence which outlines how mandated minimum staffing ratios in aged care can be implemented to bring improvements in care outcomes for elderly nursing home residents while also providing economic benefits.

Independent economic analysis, undertaken by the Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Institute (AITI), not only outlines the financial benefits of implementing mandated minimum staffing levels for the care of the elderly but also warns of the ‘significant costs’ of not mandating the minimum levels of nursing and care hours in nursing homes.

ANMF Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, says that ‘put simply, aged care ratios make economic sense’.

ANMF commissioned research, the National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project 2016 (the Project), the first of its kind in Australia, investigated care needs of elderly Australians living in nursing homes finding that an average of 4.3 nursing and care hours are needed each day and also identifying the ideal skills mix required to deliver this care.

“The research gave us the evidence about what’s required to address the current unacceptable gap in care being provided to our elderly but we know that to develop the skills and workforce to fill that gap and ensure safe and best practice care for all elderly Australians, a phased implementation plan and an understanding of the costs involved are needed”, Ms Butler said today.

“That’s why we commissioned the AITI to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of full implementation of the Project’s recommendations. The economic analysis shows that the benefits of implementing mandated minimum staffing hours outweigh the costs and warns against the costs of not implementing the recommendations. It also shows that the costs of increased staffing and improved skill mixes will be offset by savings in reduced workforce attrition and productivity gains, an increased tax take and reduced hospital system costs.

“Significantly, and for the first time, the analysis has quantified previously unrecognised benefits of the implementation of mandated minimum staffing and care levels. These include savings to the economy gained from reduced mortality of residents, improved quality of life for residents and their families and carers, as well as reduced stress and depression among residents as better staffing and care levels provide them with a better, healthier end of life experience. The analysis indicates that the benefits will grow over time, reaching an estimated $9.4 billion by 2036. So the investment will be well worth it.

“In terms of developing the workforce required, we estimate that at least 65,000 jobs will need to be created over the next 6 years; phased in with tiered increases in care hours over four stages from July 2019 to January 2025. An initial audit of current staffing levels and care hours by providers will need to be undertaken with exemptions granted to some rural and remote aged care facilities who may experience difficulties in recruiting suitably qualified staff.

“To achieve broad workforce improvements, we must also see wage increases of 10 – 15% for nurses and care-workers. This will be crucial to address current pay deficiencies and better reflect the value of the aged care workforce and its contribution to delivering best care outcomes for nursing home residents.

“The Morrison Government must address this before the next federal election. The Aged Care Royal Commission is important and necessary but it should not mean a delay in reforms, the most critical of which is the urgent need for improved staffing levels.

“If we continue to delay doing what we know is right it means at least another 18 months of pain and suffering and, potentially, too many undignified deaths.”

ANMF media release authorised by Annie Butler, ANMF Acting Federal Secretary. 1/365 Queen St, Melbourne.  


The ANMF, with over 275,500 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and carers in Australia. ANMF

Media inquiries: Richard Lenarduzzi 0411 254 390