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The Transition Care Program or TCP, which is jointly funded by the Australian Government and all state and territory governments, significantly improves outcomes for older Australians leaving hospital, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Older people leaving hospital: A statistical overview of the Transition Care Program in 2008-09, shows that among those who completed the program almost 75% had improved functional capacity and independence, with about 19% maintaining their existing level of function.

The Transition Care Program (TCP) provides short-term care to older Australians who are eligible for residential aged care after they leave hospital. 

‘The program began in 2005-06, helping 861 people in this initial year,’ said AIHW spokesperson Brent Diverty.

Additional places have been added each year, and in 2008-09 the number of people receiving help grew to about 12,600.

‘Older people often lose functional capacity during a hospital stay, so the program aims to improve their independence and functioning, while also giving them and their families some time to think about long-term care arrangements,’ Mr Diverty said.

‘While the ultimate objective is to encourage independent living, transition care is also designed to allow those requiring further care to enter residential aged care at the best level of functioning possible.’

Of the people who left transition care in 2008-09, 50% were able to return to the community—35% with a community aged care service in place, and 15% totally independently. For these people, the median length of transition care ranged from 8 to 11 weeks.

Just over 20% of recipients returned to hospital, after an average of 3 weeks.

Just under 20% entered residential aged care—13% requiring a high level of care and 6% with low-care needs. On average, these people stayed in transition care for about 6 weeks.

Transition care is flexible and is customised to the needs of the individual. The services may include personal care, medical and nursing support, case management and low-intensity therapy.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 2 June 2011

Further information: Mr Brent Diverty, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob. 0438 471 352    

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer (02) 6244 1032

Full report: Older people leaving hospital: A statistical overview of the Transition Care Program in 2008-09