Pharmacists could help ease aged care pressure

Trent Twomey

The Pharmacy Guild has weighed in to the scrutiny of the aged care sector, highlighting the importance of practising to pharmacists’ full scope of practice

Earlier this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a Royal Commission into the sector, ahead of a Four Corners report which highlighted significant failings of care.

One of the issues examined in the report was the overuse of psychotropic medicines including antipsychotics and sedatives.

Pharmacy Guild Queensland president Trent Twomey said that the findings of a recent EY report, Scope of Practice Opportunity Assessment, showed a clear path forward for elderly Queenslanders to get access to the best health care.

“Queenslanders continue to be shocked by the stories of appalling treatment of older Australians in aged care facilities,” Professor Twomey said.

“The data is clear – by allowing Queensland pharmacists to play a bigger role and use the full extent of their knowledge and training, we could be keeping people out of aged care facilities and taking pressure off the system.”

Pharmacists’ scope of practice is one of the issues currently under investigation in Queensland, in an inquiry looking at certain aspects of the ownership rules as well as whether a Pharmacy Council should be established in the state.

More than 200 submissions were made to the inquiry, most of which support pharmacists working to their full scope of practice.

The EY report found that doing so would deliver estimated savings of $283.8 million this financial year in publicly funded aged care across Australia.

“That’s a compelling statistic,” Professor Twomey said.

Professor Twomey said Queensland pharmacists have a more restricted role than their counterparts in other States and comparable countries overseas.

“This inquiry has an opportunity to change this and deliver improved health outcomes for Queenslanders, especially elderly people,” he said.

Professor Twomey said recent reports that Australians were putting off GP visits because of rising health care costs, together with the ageing population, highlighted the need for changes to the current system.

He also said that “A more transparent ownership system will prevent publicly-listed companies from putting profitability and dividends before patients and communities”.

The EY report Scope of Practice Opportunity Assessment found significant benefits for all Queenslanders if the changes were adopted including:

  • Up to $176 million in savings for State and Federal governments in avoided costs including preventable hospital admissions and GP visits if pharmacists were given wider capacity to treat minor ailments
  • Around $63 million in avoided costs if pharmacists were able to administer a broader range of vaccines
  • $283 million annually in savings on publicly subsidised aged care
  • $137 million in workforce productivity gains every year
  • Increased financial viability for community pharmacies especially in remote and regional locations.

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