The cost of GP visits highlights the need for pharmacies to offer a minor ailments service, says the Guild
Public hearings into Queensland’s inquiry into the establishment of a Pharmacy Council and transfer of pharmacy ownership in Queensland began on Monday.
Commencement of the hearings follows a report last week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which showed that 1.3 million Australians had delayed seeing a doctor in one year because they could not afford the out of pocket costs.
The report found that half of Australian patients pay a contribution to non-hospital Medicare services – a proportion which varies considerably by location. Out of pocket costs themselves also varied significantly.
In 2016-7, 86% of GP services were bulk-billed while 66% of patients had all their GP services bulk-billed.
While Health Minister Greg Hunt said that this meant a record number of Australians were visiting their GP without having to pay, Labor shadow health minister Catherine King called the figures “a complete con-job”.
“As a result of these soaring costs, 1.3 million people are either delaying or skipping seeing a doctor or getting a test when they need to – putting their wellbeing and possibly even their lives at risk,” she said.
Trent Twomey, Queensland branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, says pharmacies could be playing a bigger role in improving access to health care.
Using the full scope of community pharmacy would mean better options when treating minor ailments, he said.
“With more demand than ever on our health system, an ageing population and rising chronic disease, Queensland’s 1,100 community pharmacists are ideally placed to meet that need,” Mr Twomey said.
“There has always been strong support for pharmacists to be the first port of call for minor ailments – it’s based on the trust in which pharmacists are held, and on their professional and ethical standards.
“Queensland’s pharmacy workforce of more than 14,000 should be mobilised to use their full scope – community pharmacies are highly accessible in terms of their opening hours and broadening their scope would deliver better health outcomes for all Queenslanders.”
He said that allowing pharmacists to utilise their full scope of practice would allow pharmacists to provide much needed services to patients, working with doctors and other health professionals, by:
- providing wider delivery of Dose Administration Aids to enhance medicine adherence, particularly for aged Australians;
- delivering a structured system of medicine reconciliation post-discharge;
- continuing to dispense for stable long-term conditions; and
- supporting home delivery services.