Four ways for pharmacists to help

pharmacists in silos: pharmacist in dispensary

NSW pharmacists could significantly improve health outcomes for the state’s residents, says the PSA – if four strategic measures are implemented  

“During 2019, our state recorded the highest confirmed cases of influenza in Australia,” PSA NSW Branch President, Professor Peter Carroll said.

“Children are particularly susceptible to the flu, yet studies suggest less than a third are being immunised each flu season.

“Parents can face hurdles to accessing a GP and getting their child vaccinated, so we must do more to increase uptake of this vital health intervention.

“PSA recommends reducing the age of vaccination for influenza that trained pharmacists are able to administer to 10 years of age and over.

“Most Australians visit their pharmacist around 14 times a year,” said Prof Carroll.

“This high level of accessibility, combined with the trust consumers have in the profession, will encourage more people to get immunised.”

NSW has also experienced increases in notified cases of other diseases which can be prevented through immunisation. Last year the state had 55 cases of measles, compared to 19 in 2018.

“Pharmacists are already authorised to provide vaccinations, but there are some limiting restrictions,” said Prof Carroll.

He said that it is time to support pharmacists in the delivery of the full range of government funded vaccines other authorised immunisers can administer.

“Boosting vaccination rates and preventing outbreaks can ease pressure on our GP surgeries and hospital emergency departments,” Prof Carroll said.

He cited research released by the University of Technology Sydney in October 2019 which found that allowing community pharmacists to triage, manage and refer patients to doctors for common ailments like coughs and colds would create significant benefits for both patient health and the economy.

“More than 10% of emergency department presentations in NSW are considered non-urgent,” Professor Carroll said. “Seventy per cent of these presentations occur during the typical business hours of a community pharmacy.”

PSA recommends funding pharmacists for the management of non-urgent or low urgency medical conditions through community pharmacy. This should be supported by a co-ordinated health promotion that promotes visiting a community pharmacy instead of an emergency department for
non-urgent or low urgency medical conditions, the organisation says.

“Pharmacists have the skills and training to perform these functions safely and effectively. We estimate up to 331,233 thousand ED services in NSW are transferrable to community pharmacy, which would save the health system between $131m and $439m a year,” says Prof Carroll.

PSA’s final proposed budget initiative aims to reduce preventable overdose deaths.

“Deaths from prescription medicines have outpaced deaths from illicit drugs,” Prof Carroll said.

“There is no real time monitoring of prescription products in general practices and community pharmacies in NSW, therefore there is no way of identifying and helping those people who may be doctor shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions or require referral to support pathways.”

PSA is proposing the implementation of a mandatory Real Time Prescription Monitoring (RTPM) system for all drugs with the potential for addiction or misuse. It is also seeking funding of workforce training for community pharmacists to assist in the implementation of a RTPM system.

“NSW led the way in response to emergency supply of prescription medicines in the bushfire crisis, increasing access to these medicines to allow one month’s supply without a prescription,” Professor Carroll said.

“We look forward to seeing NSW lead the way in other health initiatives that have a broader impact across the country.”

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