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Embed pharmacists: the answer to addressing medicine-related harm in aged care

Photo: Embed pharmacists: the answer to addressing medicine-related harm in aged care
Medicine-related harm in residential aged care facilities is an alarming issue – one which could be improved through embedding pharmacists according to the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA).

In its submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, PSA has called for a national program that embeds pharmacists in all aged care facilities.

PSA National President Dr Chris Freeman said that residents in aged care facilities deserved to have timely and regular access to the expertise of a pharmacist if they required advice and support with their medicines and medicine management.

"The health of the aged care sector matters a great deal to pharmacists and many pharmacists already contribute to activities and services to improve resident safety and system changes impacting on quality and safety in aged care facilities," he said.
"However older Australians, particularly aged care residents, deserve more. There must be a stronger connection between health care and aged care."

PSA’s Medicine Safety: Take Care report showed that 98 per cent of residents in a residential aged care facility have at least one medicine-related problem and over half are exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medicine. Pharmacists, with their unique expertise in medicines and medicine management, are ideally placed to identify and help resolve these issues.

"Pharmacists embedded in facilities can contribute to improving quality use of medicines facility-wide and reducing harm caused by overuse of medicines," Dr Freeman said.

"It has been clear through evidence provided to the Royal Commission that we need to have pharmacists protecting patients from the inappropriate prescribing and use of medicines."

In its submission, PSA also called for further actions to improve resident safety and health outcomes:

  • Aged care workforce education and training – pharmacists can support the aged care workforce through education and training of staff on medicines and medicine management issues;
     
  • Residential Medication Management Reviews (RMMRs) – all residents in aged care facilities should have timely access to an RMMR conducted by a pharmacist;
     
  • Quality use of medicines (QUM) service – current arrangements and funding for the delivery of QUM services are inadequate. Appropriate investment must be made to prioritise QUM activities for the clinical care of residents and to improve quality and safety within aged care facilities;
     
  • Funding of Dose Administration Aids (DAA) – similar to patients in the community, residents of aged care facilities should have equitable access to subsidised DAA services when clinically warranted, or where use of a DAA is mandated by the facility.

Dr Freeman said the pharmacy profession was equipped and eager to contribute but pharmacists' expertise must be recognised more broadly and their skills used across the aged care sector.

"Structural arrangements or funding program business rules must not hinder pharmacists from contributing their unique medication management expertise for the benefit of residents and aged care facilities," he said.

"Disappointingly, pharmacists who possess unique medicines and medicine management expertise are often excluded from the delivery of healthcare services.

"With our submission today, we are making a commitment to all Australians, particularly those in residential aged care facilities – the pharmacist workforce is ready, willing and able to step up to improve medicine safety in our healthcare system.

"In aged care, the answer is simple. We call on the government to embed pharmacists in aged care facilities nationwide and remove barriers to the provision of pharmacist services.

"Only then can we ensure an improvement in medicine safety and optimal health outcomes for older Australians."

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