New Strategic Plan - our future's in our hands

By Simon Wallace, NZACA Chief Executive

Our future is in our hands! That’s at the heart of NZACA’s new strategic plan that we presented to members at the strategy session at Conference on 4 October. 

We picked this theme because our sector is dependent on Government funding and that can sometimes obscure who holds the controls. To be successful, we must be in control of our own destiny.

Like all areas of health, aged care is changing faster and faster. You all know about the ageing population, the rising specialist need in hospital, dementia, palliative, bariatric and respite care and a technology revolution in the care industry. In trying to cope with these changes we are all faced with some big challenges, including an outdated “one-size-fits-all” public funding model, workforce cost and capability issues and increased expectations of residents and their families.

This new strategy sets out to address those challenges and leverage off the opportunities. It will see NZACA take a much stronger leadership role to ensure the sector’s voice heard.

Strategic priorities

There are five strategic priorities:

Strengthen public leadership

We are putting a stake in the ground. We want a dedicated Minister of Health and Ageing. Given the number of New Zealanders aged 65+ is forecast to double over the next two decades and those aged 85+ to increase by threefold, it’s a no brainer.

Now is the time for the Government to start planning for that growth and to give much greater political recognition to our sector. Directions set now have the potential to ease the pressures of an ageing population, making aged care more affordable and of a higher quality.

We want to work with this new Minister of Health and Ageing to build a united response to the megatrends impacting our sector, particularly around funding.

Reviewing the funding model

We want to go back to the drawing board in collaboration with ARRC and the Ministry of Health to review the current funding model. The one we’ve got lacks flexibility, there’s no variation in care categories and there’s no connection to InterRAI. The Government knows it’s not working and is looking for change. We want to be part of those discussions. As far as we are concerned, nothing is off the table.

The technology revolution

Technology will be a key driver of aged care policy in the coming decade, used for assessment, special needs, monitoring and living. At present, however, there is no comprehensive overview of technology in our sector. Even existing technology such as InterRAI is not being used as effectively as it could be.

We want to enhance our sector’s use of technology and insight. Our actions include the appointment of a data analyst at NZACA specifically to mine the InterRAI data and tell our members and the Government what it is saying.  .

Upskilling the workforce

While the eventual resolution of the Equal Pay issue (potentially early next year) will make recruitment somewhat easier, we’ll still be faced with staff shortages and challenges around recruitment. This will be exacerbated by the Government’s recent tightening of immigration rules.

Our focus will be on achieving training that is tailor-made for our sector, responsive to changing needs and affordable. We also want sector-friendly immigration policies given the sector’s reliance on immigrant workers.

Consumer connection

NZACA has been successful over the last few years in achieving financial gains for the sector which have led to the delivery of better service. But there are limits to the influence we can achieve acting largely alone.

We need to attract more support from our natural allies – residents and their families, and some of the professional agencies and individuals we work with.

Our focus will be on building strong relationships and alliances and looking at the feasibility of creating a residential care reference group to support our advocacy work.

Putting it into action

One of our key actions to support the Strategic Plan is a 2017 General Election Manifesto that will highlight key areas where we see change is necessary. This will be backed by a pre-election campaign pushing for the creation of a new portfolio – a Minister of Health and Ageing. We will work closely with members to implement the new strategy and keep you updated on progress.

See the Strategic Plan 2016-17 conference presentation the in members’ zone of this website – Publications – Strategic Plan.