Pharmacists ‘crucial’ to the healthcare team

Doctors and nurses join forces in call for investment into aged care services, but pharmacists need to be added to the conversation

The Australian Medical Association (AMA), jointly with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has urged the Federal Government to immediately guarantee quality and safety in aged care, appropriately fund and staff residential aged care facilities, and increase funding for home care packages.

Declaring aged care to be “in crisis”, the organisations launched their campaign in the midst of the ongoing Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which is to deliver its final recommendations to government in November 2020.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said Australians should not have to wait for the findings of the Royal Commission before the Government starts investing properly in aged care.  

“We can’t wait for that Commission to hand down its findings while older Australians are suffering and being denied access to quality of life – even in the community through the necessary aged care packages,” Dr Bartone said.

The AMA and ANMF called for mandatory minimum staff-to-resident ratios, including ensuring sufficient skilled nurses, an increase in funding for aged care, and an increase in the number of GPs working in aged care.

ANMF President, Annie Butler, pointed out that medication management is an issue in aged care.

“Tony mentioned earlier the average number of medications that people are on in aged care is 9.4 medications,” she told media at a doorstop in front of Parliament House on Monday.

“They are all on those medications because of the complex conditions that these people have, but people need to be able to understand the interactions these medications have, the effects they have, what to do when a medication is working, not working, is having side effects,”  she said.

“So it’s critically important once again, that we make sure we have the appropriate workforce in aged care – doctors and nurses and other professionals working together to make sure that we manage these issues.”

Earlier this year, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy told the Royal Commission that embedding pharmacists in aged care facilities was “the highest priority” of the Aged Care Clinical Advisory Committee.

“There is available pharmacy workforce now, and the trial results showed the benefit, and there’s a benefit well beyond psychotropic medication,” he told the Commission, adding that a decision to fund any such program would be in the hands of the future government.

PSA has consistently called for pharmacists to be recognised and embedded wherever medicines are used.

“Pharmacists are of course a crucial part of the healthcare team when it comes to medicines,” a spokesperson told AJP.

“We agree that there is a need for urgent change to funding for aged care, especially in the context of improved safe and quality use of medicines in aged care.”

Pharmacist services are briefly mentioned in the AMA’s submission to the commission, with the organisation pointing out that restrictions via MBS and 6CPA funding create barriers to accessing medication reviews.

“The AMA believes that medication reviews should occur annually, and then on an as-needed basis to ensure medications are appropriate for older people,” it said.

“Pharmacists who work with doctors have an important role in assisting with medication adherence, improving medication management, and providing education about medication safety.”

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