Call for funding to attract and retain pharmacists

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Pharmacist workforce issues and medicines problems are rife in rural and remote areas, with poor adherence in over one million Australians, new report finds

Over 1.3 million Australians living in rural and remote areas do not take their medicines at all or as intended, according to the PSA’s new report Medicine Safety: Rural and remote care, which was launched by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard in Sydney on Saturday 13 March.

The annual cost of medicine non-adherence in rural and remote Australia is estimated to contribute $2.03 billion to health costs.

Meanwhile, an estimated 72,500 Australians living in rural and remote areas are admitted to hospital each year due to medicine-related problems, according to the report developed for the PSA by Charles Sturt University

Half of this harm is preventable, with a total cost to the healthcare system of $400 million per year.

PSA National President Chris Freeman said the report revealed challenges in accessing health care including limited access to much-needed medicines.

“This is in part due to the tyranny of distance, inflexible regulations and health workforce shortages,” he said.

“Lower levels of access to health services mean people in rural and remote areas, generally experience greater burden of disease and have poorer health outcomes.

“The seven million Australians living in rural and remote Australians deserve better,” A/Prof Freeman said.

The report also found increased disease burden and potentially preventable hospitalisations is up to 2.4 times more than that of non-rural Australians, and the rate of preventable hospitalisations for Indigenous Australians is three times higher than that of non-Indigenous Australians.

PSA’s first and foremost recommendation is to build rural and remote pharmacist workforce capacity and capability.

This includes establishing accredited ‘rural generalist’ pharmacists who are able to participate in collaborative prescribing, pathology ordering and chronic disease management in collaboration with rural general practitioners.

It also involves instituting a workforce strategy and provide funding to attract and retain pharmacists in rural and remote Australia in primary care settings such as community pharmacy, general practice, aged care facilities and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Centres, as well as rural and regional hospitals.

“Rural and remote pharmacists in Australia have an opportunity to significantly address the breadth of disadvantage afflicting many people living in rural and remote Australia,” reads the report.

“Innovative models of care, available to rural and remote practitioners, should be adopted and implemented as a matter of urgency.”

PSA calls for funding for case conferencing, as recommended by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce, and for a Rural Pharmacy Enhanced Services Program.

It also calls for permanent access for all patients to medication management reviews via telehealth, removal of caps on the provision of HMRs and RMMRs, funding for embedded pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health centres, and the development national minimum medicine safety standards and quality benchmarks.

Read the full report here

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