GP shortage an opportunity

Up to 200 people in Ballarat, Victoria may face being turned away from clinics due to a shortage of doctors.

Reports of the shortage of GPs highlight the need for community pharmacists to be able to operate to their full scope of practice, thereby relieving the pressure on doctors and ensuring better health outcomes for patients.

Pharmacy Guild Victoria President Anthony Tassone says that while the situation in Ballarat is dire, it reflects a general trend across the nation.

“Last year the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported more than one million Australians were putting off seeing a doctor in one year because they couldn’t afford it,” he said.

“Add this situation to a shortage of GPs, and it’s clear there’s a crisis – a crisis that pharmacists can help to address.”

Ballarat’s Eureka Medical Centre Pharmacy proprietor and local pharmacist Hugh Millikan says community pharmacies are an important part of the health system and could be playing a greater role to ensure all Australians are getting access to healthcare.

“We have the skills and training to do a lot more to ease the huge pressure our GP colleagues are facing,” he said.

“Easing this pressure will help deliver better health outcomes for all Australians.

“Quite simply, pharmacists need to be able to operate to their full scope of practice and governments in all jurisdictions must act on this as a matter of urgency. Allowing pharmacists to operate to full scope of practice will maximise the benefits for patients by using pharmacists’ expertise in medicines, which is already acknowledged by regulatory authorities.

“Patients are already benefiting from pharmacists providing more services under their scope of practice. These services include vaccinations, medicine reviews and a wide range of health screening services. There’s so much more we can, and should, be doing to help patients.

“Full-scope pharmacist services could also involve a form of controlled pharmacist supply that would allow patients to access ongoing treatment and medicines for management of chronic disease or treatment of an acute infection under a validated protocol.

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