‘Lives will be saved.’

Leading pharmacy organisation calls for millions to be invested into medicines safety and pharmacist roles in its 2020-21 Federal Budget submission

The PSA has outlined its five recommendations to the Federal Government in the lead up to the 2020-21 Budget, which will be handed down in Parliament on 12 May 2020.

Lives will be saved and health outcomes improved through fully using the expertise and accessibility of Australia’s pharmacists, said the PSA in its budget submission, adding that their recommendations will provide a positive return on investment.

“Accessibility to health care is a major challenge in this country,” National President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman said.

“Some members of our community do not get the health care they need and deserve. As our population ages and the number of people with chronic conditions continues to rise, we need to be innovative and use our resources efficiently.”

Here are the five recommendations laid out in the PSA’s Budget wish list:

1. Establish a Medicines Safety in Aged Care Resource and Support Program

Allocate $8.7 million over four years for the establishment of a Medicines Safety in Aged Care Resource and Support Program to support the safe and quality use of medicines within aged care.

“Ninety-eight per cent of aged care residents have at least one medication related problem,” said Associate Professor Chris Freeman.

“Over half of aged care residents are exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medicine. What we know from the Aged Care Royal Commission interim report is that this is often a sedative or psychotropic medicine that can make them drowsy and more likely to experience a harm,” he said.

“It has been estimated the use of psychotropic medicines in aged care is only clearly justified in about 10 per cent of cases.”

elderly man drinking
PSA’s proposed program would to lead the development, dissemination, implementation and evaluation of evidence-based resources on medication safety for aged care facilities.

2. Pilot a Rural Pharmacy Enhanced Services Program

Allocate $15.4 million to pilot a Rural Pharmacy Enhanced Services Program to support rural pharmacists deliver high-quality primary care.

Associate Professor Freeman said Australians living in rural and remote parts of the country were one of the main groups to struggle with health care accessibility, many having to travel great distances to see a GP or go to hospital. Rural and remote patients tend to turn to their pharmacist, who are often the only health care provider in a community.

“It has been very clear during the recent bushfire emergency the role of rural pharmacists and their willingness to step up in times of need. We want to be able to support our rural pharmacists to do more to be able to help their communities,” he said.

rural Australia
PSA’s proposed program would provide support for provision of services in a ‘health hub’ model.

3. Support a pilot opioid stewardship program through pharmacists working in general practices.

Allocate $4 million for an 18-month pilot program of opioid stewardship pharmacists in general practices to reduce the harm caused by opioid medicines.

“Tragically, over three Australians die each day from opioid overdose, the majority involving the use of pharmaceutical opioids,” Associate Professor Freeman said.

“A collaborative opioid stewardship program, actively supported by pharmacists, will allow us to improve, monitor and evaluate opioid use and increase safety and effectiveness of opioid use and pain management in primary care.”

prescription drugs opioid deaths inquest addictive drugs dependence
General practice pharmacists are best placed to increase safety and effectiveness of opioid use and pain management in primary care settings, says PSA.

4. Increase the value of the tiers of the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) per SWPE by 50% including lifting the limit to $187,500.

Allocate additional funds to support more pharmacists within general practice; including increasing the value of the WIP funding per Standardised Whole Patient Equivalent (SWPE) by 50% and increasing the upper limit cap on the larger general practices by 50%.

“Pharmacists in primary care make a difference by providing advice and education on medicine safety and quality use of medicines and reducing the risk of medicine problems as patients transition between care providers,” Assoc Prof Freeman explained.

“PSA would like this valuable program expanded further. Integrating pharmacists into general practice is expected to yield a net saving of $544.87 million to the health system over four years.”

money stock level up financial
The current capped budget allocation limits the extent to which practices are able to engage a pharmacist through the Workforce Incentive Program, argues PSA.

5. Appoint a Commonwealth Chief Pharmacist.

Allocate $400,000 annually to improve the Commonwealth Government’s coordination and responsiveness to medicine safety and quality use of medicines in Australia’s complex healthcare system.

The role of Chief Pharmacist would sit within the Federal Department of Health. The Chief Pharmacist would provide direction and high-level advice on all pharmacy and medicines issues and complement the work of the Chief Medical Officer.

This position would serve as the Government’s principal advisor on all matters related to the National Medicines Policy.

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There are currently no formal structures within Government to provide independent ongoing expert advice on pharmacy and quality use of medicines issues, says PSA in arguing for a Chief Pharmacist.

PSA also called for this role to be established in its last Federal Budget submission.

See the full 2020-21 Submission here

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