NSW Labor promises 24-hour pharmacy trial

24 hour pharmacy neon sign

A Foley Labor Government would spend $3 million – over three years – to trial a program to expand 24-hour pharmacy services.

The trial would help three Sydney pharmacies expand their operating hours to 24 hours, seven days a week, NSW Labor says in the leadup to this weekend’s election.

The policy is aimed at helping people fill prescriptions outside regular business hours and would be funded by a one-off three year subsidy which would cover the cost of a pharmacist, pharmacy assistant and a security guard between the hours of 11pm and 6am.

The three-year period would allow the pharmacy to establish a reputation and eventually become self-sustaining.

The potential locations based on population and proximity to hospitals would be in the inner west (Glebe/Leichhardt/Newtown area); the Northern Suburbs: (Chatswood/ Ryde/Eastwood); and Southwest Sydney.

If the trial is successful, a Foley Labor Government would look at extending the trial to other parts of the State where there would be the need for 24-hour pharmacies such as the Hunter, the South Coast, major regional centres and the North Coast.

“Every parent knows the frustration of needing to fill a prescription for a child at 2am and not being able to get to a pharmacy—after visiting an emergency department with a child with a fever or earache,” says NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord.

“Labor recognises the valuable role pharmacies play in local communities and we want to support the work they do.

“There are occasions when it is necessary to visit a pharmacy – outside traditional hours – and this is about responding to that need.

“This is about responding to the changing health needs of Australia and stepping outside the square.”

In the leadup to the Victorian election late last year, Victorian Labor also promised to support 20 pharmacies to become 24/7 “super pharmacies”.

The three Sydney pharmacies would be selected under a tender process. The $3 million program would provide $1 million over three years to each pharmacy to assist with security and other associated costs.

Currently, there is one 24-hour pharmacy in Sydney’s west at Stockland Town Centre, Wetherill Park. It has become a source for after-hours medications for patients who have visited Westmead, Fairfield, Blacktown, Nepean and Sutherland hospitals. This pharmacy also receives a large number of after-hours telephone calls, seeking informal advice on minor medical matters such as mild fevers and earaches.

Due to financial constraints and limited trade from 11pm to 6am, pharmacies are unable to operate during these hours until they have established a reputation and knowledge in the community, NSW Labor says.

It says that ideally, a 24-hour pharmacy should be located near several hospitals and residential areas so that a patient who receives a script at the emergency department in the middle of the night can go to the pharmacy and have it filled.

It would also serve a parent who has a child with a minor illness or the need for an over-the-counter medication in the middle of the night.

“The 24 hour pharmacies will complement emergency departments, as well as help families and shift workers,” says Secord. “This is a common sense approach.”

“In addition, this should reduce the number of adults visiting over-stretched emergency departments, which are treating category five patients – the lowest triage category. Instead, the emergency departments should be concentrating on the most urgent cases.”

According to the Labor Party, it supports new approaches to health including four nurse walk-in centres; allowing pharmacists to provide flu vaccinations; and providing whooping cough vaccinations to pregnant women to give newborns immunity to the disease.

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