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Pharmacies the right medicine for Medicare

Pharmacy Guild
Photo: Greater role for pharmacists mooted
Community pharmacists equipped to provide vaccinations, basic health checks, mental health support, repeat prescriptions and treat minor ailments could be the remedy to Australia’s rising health care costs.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says enhanced services at the nation’s 5450 community pharmacies will deliver a more affordable and accessible health system.

The call comes after Health Minister Sussan Ley recently vowed to consult with health professionals on reforms designed to make Medicare more sustainable.

The Guild says pharmacists could provide repeat prescriptions for stable, long term conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Pharmacists could also dispense medicines to treat a range of minor ailments such as urinary tract infections, middle ear infections and minor skin irritations, which make up about 26 million GP consultations every year.

Trained community pharmacists could administer the flu and other vaccinations, through the National Immunisation Program for at-risk patient groups, and provide vaccines privately for the wider population.

Under a trial, Queensland pharmacies are delivering the influenza, whooping cough and measles vaccines, while Western Australian and South Australian pharmacists were also recently given the green light to administer the flu vaccine.

The Guild proposes pharmacies could also provide a systematic approach to medicines reconciliation.

It argues post hospital and transitional care medicine reconciliation support will address the 230,000 medicine-related hospital admissions annually, that comes with a $1.2 billion price tag.

Pharmacies could deliver basic health checks, risk assessments, lifestyle counselling, support and referrals alongside initial screening for diseases such as bowel cancer.

“This increased role in preventative health and early intervention will help identify at-risk patients earlier and, with the necessary follow-up, have the potential to reduce the prevalence of expensive, chronic health conditions,” it states.

The Guild says pharmacists with the appropriate qualifications and training could also provide early intervention, support, referral and continuity of care for people with mental illness.

The Guild national president George Tambassis said community pharmacies in Australia have already proven their ability to provide enhanced medication support, diabetes services, asthma management and blood pressure monitoring.

“The outstanding success of the recent flu vaccination pilot in Queensland is the latest example of how pharmacies can deliver high quality and more convenient and cost-effective services to patients,” he said.

“However, Australia is lagging many other countries in terms of making the most effective use of its highly accessible physical pharmacy network and the skills of its pharmacist profession, working in close collaboration with doctors and other health professionals.

“The government’s Medicare reforms, combined with the upcoming new community pharmacy agreement, aged care reforms, primary health networks and potential changes to the private health insurance rebate provide the right climate to transform pharmacies into true health destinations.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords