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Pharmacists applaud immunisation move

pharmacist
Photo: PSA Victorian president Michelle Lynch
Victorian pharmacists have welcomed a move that could enable them to deliver immunisations to adults as early as next year.

The Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Legislation Committee’s Inquiry into Community Pharmacy in Victoria has outlined a raft of recommendations supporting a greater role for pharmacists in improving health outcomes.

The report recommends the Department of Health establish a pharmacy immunisation trial targeting adults, ideally commencing in time for the 2015 influenza season, and a pilot of a minor ailments scheme involving community pharmacies in rural areas.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) Victorian president Michelle Lynch said the organisation would now work with The Pharmacy Guild in Victoria and the Department of Health to transition the recommendation into an action plan.

Ms Lynch, a pharmacist with independent specialist consulting company PharmConsult who also works in community pharmacy, said while any details are yet to be worked out, a trial will build on the success of phase one of the Queensland Pharmacist Immunisation Project (QPIP) held earlier this year.

“They’ve delivered over 10,000 immunisations at over 80 different sites as a pilot with very positive results,” she said.

Ms Lynch said she expects pharmacists will be keen to participate in a Victorian trial.

“I think there will be an overwhelming response from pharmacists to take up this service,” she said.

“One of the biggest findings from Queensland is the access that is provided to the public - the ease and convenience, especially for people who wouldn’t have normally gone to get their flu vaccine.

“It’s a great opportunity not only for a practising pharmacist but also to improve the health outcomes of Victorians as well.”

Ms Lynch said the proposed pilot of a minor ailments scheme will enable pharmacists to treat a range of minor conditions in conjunction with GPs and other allied health professionals.

“It’s making sure that triaging of patients is in the community pharmacy and then being referred to a GP as opposed to an emergency department - it’s definitely utilising the resources that we have available to us.”

The Australian Medical Association has criticised the recommendations.

Ms Lynch said the committee’s recognition of the role of pharmacists in the community “is not to replace the decisions and very critical and important role that the GP plays”.

“This is about enhancing that relationship, ensuring the GP is absolutely part of that care and better utilising the resources available to again improve the health outcomes of Victorians.”

The report also recommended an expansion of the existing Continued Dispensing initiative, funding for medicines reviews when patients leave hospital, and a pilot of an evidence-based chronic disease screening and management program in community pharmacies.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia president George Tambassis labelled the report “a timely reinforcement” of the scope for community pharmacies to play a bigger role in our national health system.

“In particular, the determination to get a pharmacist vaccination trial up and underway by early next year is the right decision for the health of Victorians,” he said.

“All over the world, comparable countries to Australia are making better and fuller use of pharmacists’ expertise and the accessibility of pharmacies, and it is time for Australia to do the same.”

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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