Less talk, more action


A new report on preventable hospitalisations underlines the capacity for pharmacists to work to full scope of practice, one stakeholder says

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released a report, Disparities in potentially preventable hospitalisations across Australia 2012–13 to 2017–18, which shows that 748,000 (1 in 15 or 6.6%) hospital admissions were classified as potentially preventable in 2017–18.

“Nationally, the rate of potentially preventable hospitalisations in 2017–18 was around 2,800 per 100,000 people,” said AIHW spokesman Richard Juckes.

“Rates were highest in the Northern Territory (around 5,800 per 100,000), and lowest in the Australian Capital Territory (around 2,150 per 100,000).”

The most common cause (10%) of potentially preventable hospitalisations was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Vaccine-preventable pneumonia and influenza, and congestive cardiac failure accounted for the most days of hospital care.

People aged 65 years and over accounted for almost half (46%) of all potentially preventable hospitalisations, and children (aged 0–14) made up 13% (1 in 8).

The report shows Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people experienced potentially preventable hospitalisations at a rate three times as high as other Australians.

Commenting on the report, Pharmacy Guild executive director Suzanne Greenwood has written in Guild newsletter Forefront that it “adds more weight to the Guild’s advocacy for pharmacists to be able to work to their full scope of practice”.

“These are alarming figures and ones which as a nation we have to address if we are to maintain a viable and accessible health system,” she writes.

“A simple step towards addressing this high rate of preventable hospitalisations is letting our community pharmacists offer the health services they are trained to provide.”

She notes that the report found vaccine-preventable pneumonia and influenza, and congestive cardiac failure accounted for the most days of hospital care, pointing out that the administration of vaccines is an area where community pharmacies are “displaying the huge benefits of being able to operate to their scope of practice”.

“In the context of last year’s terrible flu season, the number of people protected via pharmacy vaccinations prevented even more people being diagnosed with the disease.

“While the role of pharmacists in mitigating the severity of the 2019 flu season should not be underestimated, we need to be doing all we can to have pharmacists work to their full scope of practice, which would see more people vaccinated.”

She again highlighted the Guild’s call to extend the National Immunisation Program to community pharmacies around the country, and to extend pharmacy vaccination against more illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella to all jurisdictions.

Pharmacist prescribing could also help improve community health outcomes, she says.

“It is clear that every example of pharmacists being better able to operate to their scope of practice has demonstrable benefits for the health system and the patients of Australia.

“It’s time to stop talking about utilising the great opportunities community pharmacists can provide and start acting on it.”

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