Most Australians would like to see pharmacists have a greater role in patient care in the community, a survey by the Consumers Health Forum has found.
In a finding that CHF says vindicates moves towards more integrated, community-based health care, the CHF online survey showed that nearly three-quarters of respondents support pharmacists providing expanded services, either co-located with doctors or at local pharmacies.
Fewer than a quarter of respondents opposed such a move.
CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, says the survey shows most people want to see their pharmacists have a greater role in performing basic support services such as vaccinations and blood pressure checks, and working with GPs to help chronically ill patients better manage their medication.
“The major implication of these results is that defenders of traditional ‘silos’ of medicine need to rethink the traditional roles for GPs and pharmacists,” Wells says.
“While a clear majority support expanding the role of the pharmacist, it seems clear that most would not wish to see eroded the central role of the GP in their health care.
“Indeed a somewhat higher proportion of respondents (74.2%) would like to see a pharmacist co-located with the GP compared to those supporting the local pharmacists providing increased services (69.6%).
“We believe both models of expanded care by pharmacists should be explored.”
If pharmacists are going to assume a greater role in the provision of primary care services, then health professionals are going to have to think through what training and accommodation will be necessary to give consumers the confidence that these services do not dilute the quality they have come to expect from GPs, she says.
CHF commissioned the survey to gauge consumer views on this development of primary care and to ensure that consumer needs will be met in the services resulting from policy changes.
More than 500 people responded to the survey.
“The new Community Pharmacy Agreement provides for $50 million for a Pharmacy Trial Program for the expansion of the role of pharmacists in the delivery of certain healthcare services, with a potential total of $1.2 billion being made available over the next five years for additional pharmacy services at large,” says Wells.
“About four out of five respondents reported that their local pharmacy already offered at least one of six primary care services listed in the survey: blood pressure checks (69.3%), weight management (50.8%), diabetes management (40.8%), vaccinations (36.1%), addiction support (25.3%), and mental health support (8.8%).
“It is clear however that the reservations of significant numbers of people about expanding the pharmacist’s role show that development requires clear guidelines, training and effective public education,” says Wells.
“The most strongly expressed concern among the respondents who did not support their local pharmacists offering care services was the risk of having their GP ‘out of the loop’, followed by concerns about the safety and quality of the services, the level of privacy in the pharmacy, the confidentiality of information, and the provision of these services by a pharmacist.
“What clearly came through in the survey was a desire among consumers for their health care providers to be ‘on the same page’ when it comes to the provision of health services.
“Given the evidence of consumer support for change, we need to ensure that the service design and provision does not compromise quality and safety standards.
“The purpose of this policy should be to fill gaps in primary care coverage, not to promote a system that is fragmented and prone to further dysfunction,” Wells says.