‘Bizarre’ omission of pharmacy in collaboration

odd one out different

Medicines adherence is one of five key areas of focus for a new Continuity of Care Collaboration – but pharmacy has been left out in the cold

In what it calls an “unprecedented” move, a collaboration of 15 Australian health organisations have joined hands to actively support those living with chronic health conditions to manage and monitor their health, and to advocate for preventative health during the COVID-19 pandemic and minimise the post COVID-19 community health legacy.

The participants include Pathology Awareness Australia, Australian Diabetes Society, RACGP, Medicines Australia, National Rural Health Alliance, Consumer Health Forum, Australian Primary Health Nurses Association, Heart Foundation, Allied Health Professions Australia, Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, Jean Hailes Foundation, Royal College of Pathologist of Australasia, Australian Patient Association and Patient Voice Initiative.

The collaboration lists seven key areas of focus, one of which is adherence to medicines.

The others are prevention, chronic disease management, vaccination, cancer screening, acute care management and pathology testing.

The group was formed amid “mounting” concerns that Australians have not been maintaining their regular health care visits for existing chronic conditions, or delaying seeing a doctor about testing, vaccination or investigation of concerns due to worry about contracting COVID-19, or about over-burdening the health system.

The Collaboration says that patient safety and continuity of care has never been more important, and Pathology Awareness Australia’s John Crothers noted that several weeks ago, laboratory testing had plunged by 40%.

“The aim of the CCC is for each of the 15 organisations to communicate consistently the importance of urging people to keep a close watch on their ongoing health care and maintenance, and to not allow the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to prevent crucial healthcare interactions such as seeing your general practice team, allied health professional, pharmacist or receiving important tests,” it said in a statement.

“The CCC will engage with Federal and State Governments and Departments of Health to keep patients safe during COVID-19 whilst moving the continuity of care agenda forward.”

But Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, expressed surprise and disappointment that there was no inclusion of any pharmacy organisation in the collaboration.

“It is truly bizarre that any collaboration looking at medication adherence for patient care would exclude peak pharmacy organisations,” he told the AJP.

“Whether it was by accident or design – it is a mistake that will undermine any success this initiative ever hopes to achieve. 

“Sadly, through this glaring omission it seems that despite the best of intentions, this collaboration are potentially setting themselves up for not succeeding right from the very start without having the right people in the room, and pharmacists are the undisputed medicine experts as part of an interprofessional team of health care professionals.”

Mr Tassone said that without the best team of health care professionals working together to enhance patient care, patients themselves will not see the benefits such a collaboration could bring.

“Furthermore, with vaccinations being a key focus of this collaboration – it is imperative that pharmacy is included given the record number of flu vaccinations already delivered through community pharmacy this year,” he said.

Elizabeth de Somer, CEO of Medicines Australia, noted that medicines were a key aspect of continuity of care.

“Patients need to continue with their regular general practice visits, pathology testing, vaccinations and taking medications, as we want to ensure that peoples’ health is managed not only for now but also in the long-term,” she said in the CCC’s statement.

She added in a statement from MA that “From a pharmaceutical perspective, medication adherence is important for controlling chronic conditions, treating temporary conditions and overall long-term health and wellbeing”.

Anthony Tassone said that medicines adherence has also been a key focus for Australia’s pharmacists during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has posed great challenges for patient adherence and continuity of care, and if it was not for the dedicated work of the 5700-plus community pharmacy network across Australia keeping their doors open and going the extra mile to do whatever it took to ensure patients did not go without whenever possible – the situation could have been a lot worse,” he said.

“The Guild stands ready to collaborate on any initiative that involves working as part of an interprofessional team to further improve patient care.

“Our door is always open.”

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