Don’t stop there, Ministers: PSA

medication consultation HMR

Australia’s health ministers have agreed to make QUM and medicines safety a National Health Priority Area

At last week’s meeting in Perth, the COAG Health Council discussed a number of national health issues, one of which was the Quality Use of Medicines.

The Council’s resulting communique highlights that medicines are the most common intervention in health care and can contribute to significant health gains – but can also be associated with harm.

“Half of all medication related harm is preventable and a coordinated national approach that identifies and promotes best practice models and measures progress towards reducing medication related harm has the potential to improve the health of Australians and create savings across the health care system,” it notes.

At the meeting, the Health Ministers agreed to make the Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety the 10th National Health Priority Area.

They agreed that the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, in collaboration with relevant agencies including the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and the Australian Digital Health Agency, would prepare a national baseline report on the Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety.

This report would identify priority areas such as the improvement of current frameworks, new best practice models and new national standards.

The PSA welcomed the move, saying it commended the Ministers for making medicine safety the 10th national health priority area.

“Medicines are meant to help us get better, not make our health worse,” Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President A/Prof Chris Freeman said.

“As PSA’s Medicine Safety: Take Care report found 250,000 Australians are hospitalised each year and another 400,000 present to emergency departments as a result of medication errors, inappropriate use, misadventure and interactions.

“At least half of these problems could have been prevented.

“The annual cost of medication-related hospital admissions in Australia is nearly $1.4 billion. This is equivalent to 15% of total PBS expenditure and is money that could be much better spent.”

This cost does not include extra presentations to emergency departments or to general practice or community pharmacy.

“PSA applauds our state and territory health ministers and Commonwealth Health Minister, Greg Hunt on agreeing at today’s COAG Health Council meeting to make medicine safety the 10th National Health Priority Area,” said Dr Freeman.

“PSA commends the decision by the nation’s health ministers to commission a baseline report on quality use of medicine and medicine safety to identify the prevalence of harm and collect evidence of use and misuse of medicines.

“But it must not stop there. There needs to be meaningful commitment from all parties involved in healthcare delivery, including health professionals, peak organisations, and government to reduce harm from medicines use. PSA’s Medicine Safety: Take Care report has been the catalyst for this announcement.

“PSA commits to leading the effort on behalf of patients and pharmacists to ensure that the objective of safe and quality medicines use is realised. We look forward to working with the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare and the Australian Digital Health Agency.”

The PSA says believes several additional measures can be implemented without delay which will make a real difference to improving the health care of Australians.

The 7th Community Pharmacy Agreement provides an opportunity to reduce harm from medicines use, and the significant burden that this harm has on our healthcare system, it suggests.

“There is also an opportunity for a focus on medicine safety to be part of the National Health Reform Agreements. Research released last week found pharmacist-led medicine charting in hospitals reduced the proportion of patients with at least one medicine problem from 66 per cent to 3.6 per cent,” Dr Freeman said.

“Pharmacists are medicines experts. They must to be supported to spend more time – both in the community pharmacy setting and other parts of the health care system, including aged care facilities – reviewing patients’ medications, providing advice to members of the health care team, and educating consumers about medicine safety.

“It is also time to review the National Medicines Policy and make sure it reflects contemporary health care needs and practices. Australia’s National Medicine Policy is now 20 years old and needs a review and refresh as previously announced by the Minister for Health.

“If we are serious about achieving quality and safe use of medicines, three areas need to be of the highest priority.

“One, a comprehensive data evaluation framework needs to be developed to support the monitoring and reporting of medicines safety measures.

“Two, there needs to be greater awareness of medicines safety and its implications, and three, we need evidence-based interventions tested and implemented across settings to improve the health of Australians.”

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