The Federal Government is funding a WA trial to train aged-care workers such as cleaners to do basic health checks, including taking temperatures and dressing wounds.
Doctors have warned the move, aimed at addressing labour shortages in residential aged care, could be the slippery slope to replacing trained health workers.
Ageing Minister Mark Butler will today announce funding for WA aged care provider Bethanie to test the program at its home in Port Kennedy.
It is part of a $10.2 million initiative involving 26 projects across Australia to develop a better skilled and more flexible workforce to look after the elderly.
Under the WA trial, non-health aged-care staff could be trained in skills such as taking a resident's temperature and pulse to free nurses to deal with more complex care.
Mr Butler said the program would train staff working in roles such as cleaning, personal care, nutrition and physiotherapy to identify "health issues" early and avoid residents becoming sick and needing to go to hospital.
"The Bethanie Group will develop a workforce for residential care that has less to do with traditional roles and more to do with residents' needs," he said.
"By building workers' skills and capacity to take on new tasks, we will free up registered nurses and other health professionals to concentrate on the more complex healthcare and medical tasks for which they have been trained."
Bethanie's chief operating officer in residential services Christopher How stressed support staff would not be involved in assessing or diagnosing medical conditions.
"The concept is we shift up the competencies of registered nurses, enrolled nurses and care workers to provide better care and stop falls and unplanned hospital transfers," he said.
"We're looking at the care workers being able to do things, like initial dressings to keep a wound clean until a nurse assesses it properly, and padding bed rails to stop sores.
"We'd also teach them to do basic observations such as temperature, pulse and blood pressure, not for them to do an assessment but so they know that when the reading is above a certain level they need to report it to someone up the line."
Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong said the money could be better spent on increasing the number of trained health professionals working in aged care instead of creating a "pseudo workforce".