As the Victorian election draws nearer, pharmacy groups are lobbying to let pharmacists help more with issues like opioids and immunisation

The PSA and SHPA have both issued statements outlining their hopes for outcomes from the Victorian election, which is set for Saturday 24 November.

The PSA has called on Victoria’s political parties to improve Victorians’ access to healthcare by allowing pharmacists to do more, including through Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (MATOD) services.

PSA Victorian President Benjamin Marchant said pharmacists are the most frequently contacted health professionals in Victoria, yet their skills are not being put to full use.

“The upcoming Victorian state election is the ideal time to commit to new reforms for a healthier Victoria, and PSA urges Victorian political parties to take full advantage of the highly trained pharmacist workforce by committing to provide $2.2 million in seed funding for a pilot of the shared care model for MATOD services in Victoria,” Mr Marchant said.

Mr Marchant said there is overwhelming evidence that illicit drugs and misuse of pharmaceutical medicines are a major community concern, creating a significant burden on the Victorian health system, law enforcement and community welfare.

“The referral pathway to support and manage addiction is at breaking point and MATOD services are under enormous pressure,” he said.

“There is a severe shortage of MATOD prescribers despite the Victorian government’s repeated efforts over many years to recruit doctors and nurse practitioners.

“With the implementation of Victoria’s real-time prescription monitoring system, SafeScript, over the next 18 months, the demand for MATOD services is likely to increase significantly, putting additional pressure on the already strained prescriber pool.”

After consulting with a broad range of stakeholders, PSA has determined there is scope for pharmacists to support a more sustainable collaborative model that provides consumers with wider options, reduces pressure on prescribers and ensures a more holistic approach to patients’ wellbeing.

Mr Marchant said, “There is strong evidence that government funding for MATOD would enhance compliance, minimise stigma and encourage more pharmacists to offer this much-needed service.”

“This funding has received universal support from the Victorian Alcohol and Other Drugs sector and is one of the recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry on Drug Law Reform.”

To support this service, PSA is calling on Victorian political parties to fully fund MATOD dispensing and management fees for patients.

PSA also urges political parties to allow the public to be able to receive the full range of National Immunisation Program vaccines from pharmacists.

“Victorian pharmacists have provided vaccinations since 2016 and the public has given excellent feedback on the safety and convenience of this service,” Mr Marchant said. “More Victorians than ever have been immunised, including many people for the first time.”

International and local research has shown pharmacists can boost vaccination rates, and independent research commissioned by PSA has shown almost two in three Australians believe pharmacists should be able to administer a broader range of vaccinations.

Mr Marchant said, “The restricted range of pharmacist vaccination is needlessly forcing people to visit multiple providers to get fully immunised under the National Immunisation Program, creating unnecessary barriers that compromise the population’s overall immunity.

“Victorians clearly value the work pharmacists are doing and believe they can do more. Now is the time to remove these constraints to give the public better access to the health services they need.”

PSA is also calling for the appointment of a Chief Pharmacist in Victoria to make better use of pharmacist resources.

“The Chief Pharmacist would provide a crucial link between regulation, programs, funding and infrastructure. This much-needed position would foster collaboration between pharmacy and other health professions, and provide advice to the government to advance policy development, planning and health reform,” Mr Marchant said.

“Pharmacists are a critical part of the Victorian health system, helping to implement major reforms such as real-time prescription monitoring, Supercare 24-hour pharmacies, chronic diseases management and drug law reform.

“The above measures are urgently needed to improve health outcomes for Victorians and ease the burden on the overloaded health system.”

SHPA launches its own campaign

SHPA is also campaigning to improve hospital pharmacy service provision and patient care

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia is calling on politicians from all parties to prioritise policies that will support such care.

On behalf of its Victorian members, it has identified five state Victorian election priorities.

These include:

  1. Continued support for the implementation of electronic medication management (eMM) systems for Victorian public hospitals to improve safety and quality of care received by Victorians.
  2. Investment in opioid stewardship services in all Victorian hospitals with surgical facilities to address opioid prescription and supply.
  3. Continue to support further workforce innovation in clinical pharmacy
  4. Bridge the gap in the delivery of clinical pharmacy services by supporting the provision of clinical pharmacy services across seven days and in Emergency Departments
  5. Recognising pharmacists as medicines experts by involving pharmacists in Victorian health care reform

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels says many Victorian hospitals are implementing electronic medication management systems in a fragmented approach.

“Rolling out partial coverage, or running parallel online and paper-based medical records limits the ability of an integrated eMM system to reduce prescribing and dispensing errors,” she says.

“Government support for the implementation of eMM systems for public hospitals is a strategic approach to ensuring the safety and high-quality care of Victorians.”

Ms Michaels says this year’s SafeScript launch in Victoria has “rightly” put opioid stewardship in the spotlight.

“Evidence tells us establishing opioid stewardship services in all Victorian hospitals with surgical facilities is the next logical investment to help address issues surrounding opioid prescription and supply.”

“Regarding the services more broadly, we know increased access to pharmacists as medicines experts reduces risk of medicine-related error, harm and hospital readmission, and we urge all engaged parties to supporting the provision of clinical pharmacy services across seven days and in Emergency Departments.”

Supporting clinical pharmacy innovation and recognising hospital pharmacists as essential medicines experts will also help ongoing reform of the Victorian health system, Ms Michaels says.

In terms of recognising pharmacists as medicines experts, the SHPA says it supports the appointment of a Chief Pharmacist, to enable greater contribution from the sector to medicines policy, “and support interaction between state and federal agencies in relation to medicines and medicines funding.”

Read the full explanation of SHPA priorities here.