We support Medicare and bigger role for pharmacists: CHF

Consumer group calls for widened pharmacist role in healthcare and more funding including Medicare items for pharmacy, and criticises turf war

There should be a bigger role for pharmacists in the Australian healthcare system, Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells has written in her organisation’s August newsletter.

CHF “strongly supports” the PSA’s Pharmacists in 2023 report and its ambition for a greater role and accountability for pharmacists in medicines management and primary care, she said.

“Consumers want pharmacy to be a healthcare destination and want to see pharmacists as clinicians who are part of their regular care team,” wrote Ms Wells.

“That means pharmacists working in settings outside of the retail setting. It means community pharmacy working in different ways of outreach, to support correct medication for the chronically ill who are housebound and for residents in aged care nursing homes.

“It also means new ways of funding enhanced roles,” said Ms Wells.

“We should be thinking of including Medicare items for pharmacy as well as other specific-purpose payments beyond the Community Pharmacy Agreement (CPA).”

Echoing the words of PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman, she argued that the CPA is “not a panacea” for pharmacy funding, but added that “money there should also be spent wisely on roles and functions that pharmacists can do which add value to care”.

Ms Wells called for an end to the turf war between health professionals.

“We need collaboration not competition between pharmacists and GPs,” she wrote.

“We need a culture of collaborative practice that is fostered right from the beginning where undergraduate education should teach interprofessional collaborative practice.

“It is timely that we broaden thinking about the roles that can be served by pharmacists … It is in the consumers’ interests,” Ms Wells concluded.

Her comments pre-empted the Pharmacy Guild’s call for Medicare rebates for pharmacist consultations in the mainstream media on Friday.

The Guild also released a new policy paper on Wednesday calling for pharmacists to be able to administer the full range of vaccines, prescribe medicines such as oral contraceptives and antibiotics, and treat common ailments.

This is a logical move to fill a gap left by GP waiting times, GP shortages and high-out-of-pocket costs that “are leaving many Australians are their families feeling frustrated”, the Guild said.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) posted a scathing response to the policy paper, saying health professionals should stick to their respective scopes of practice.

“If the Pharmacy Guild wants pharmacists to be doctors, then pharmacists should spend 10 to 15 years studying for a medical degree,” said AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone.

“GPs know the medical histories of their patients and their families. The enduring long-term and trusted doctor-patient relationship is at the core of safe, high-quality health and medical care in Australia,” he said.

“Undermining or diluting this relationship, as the Pharmacy Guild is proposing, is irresponsible and dangerous.”

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