The Productivity Commission’s new report on primary and community health has identified avoidable pressure on hospital emergency departments, which highlight scope for Australia’s community pharmacies to help, says the Pharmacy Guild.
The report identifies more than 2.2 million potentially avoidable GP-type presentations to emergency departments across Australia in 2013-14.
Responding to the report, the National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis, said: “Australia’s community pharmacy network is the nation’s most accessible health infrastructure, highly trusted by the public, and staffed by health professionals who are trained to provide a range of primary health care advice and services.”
Around the world, governments, hospitals, health insurers and health professionals, including GPs, are increasingly recognising that better utilising pharmacies takes pressure off the wider health system, including hospital EDs, the Guild says.
For example, in the UK, the college of GPs is working with the National Health Service and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to publicly encourage patients to make pharmacy their first port of call for treating minor ailments like coughs and colds.
Australia is lagging behind many other countries in terms of making the most effective use of its highly accessible pharmacy network and the skills of its pharmacist profession, working in close collaboration with doctors and other health professionals, the Guild says.
The scope for community pharmacy to play a role is significant. In addition to the potentially avoidable hospital ED visits, it’s been estimated that around 26 million GP visits per year are for the treatment of minor ailments.
Mr Tambassis says the Pharmacy Guild will advocate for a range of service enhancements to deliver better outcomes for patients and greater efficiency in the health system, including:
- Extending the treatment of minor ailments to community pharmacies
- Enhancing access to prescription repeats for stable, long term conditions
- Improving access to vaccinations
- Post hospital and transitional care medicine reconciliation support
- Basic health checks, screening and preventative health services
- Mental health support
“Community pharmacies and pharmacists have the proven capability to take up these opportunities, taking the pressure off doctors, hospital emergency departments and the wider health system,” Mr Tambassis says.