‘Pharmacy First’ philosophy needed

With three million “avoidable” hospital presentations last financial year, there is clear evidence that community pharmacy could ease the burden on hospital emergency departments.

The figures from the latest Productivity Commission report demonstrate how overburdened the hospital system is and, with about 19% of people saying they waited longer than was acceptable to get a GP appointment, community pharmacy is well placed to help by providing full scope of practise.

“Community pharmacies are an under-utilised and highly accessible asset in our health system,” said The Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President George Tambassis.

“We can do more to ease the strain both on hospital emergency departments and on hard-pressed doctors’ surgeries.

“We agree with those doctor groups who are saying that avoidable hospital presentations are an inefficient use of the health system, putting pressure on hospitals and increasing waiting times.

“There is no single solution to this problem, but among the solutions is the better use of the full scope of pharmacist practice being facilitated across the 5,700 community pharmacies across Australia.

“Within our existing scope of practice and acting collaboratively with local doctors, community pharmacies can ease the burden on hospitals and doctors, giving them more time to give patients appropriate care.”

Vice President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Dr Shane Jackson told Retail Pharmacy Magazine that pharmacists in Australia have been able to deal with minor ailments for years.

“There are things that pharmacists can treat with advice including advising the patient from a selfcare perspective and there are also medicines that are offered for minor illness type presentations, such as diarrhoea, dermatological presentations, colds and flu.

“We should certainly be fostering a ‘Pharmacy First’ philosophy,” he said

Pharmacists in community pharmacies represent a highly skilled network of primary health care professionals providing quality medicine dispensing, advice and services – including advice on common ailments; vaccinations; medication management; chronic disease support; continued and emergency dispensing; and triage and risk assessment.

Community pharmacies are evenly distributed and highly accessible, often operating over extended hours in urban, rural and remote areas, placing them in the ideal position to support the communities they serve.

Mr Tambassis also noted the Productivity Commission’s reference to seven per cent of Australians either delaying or avoiding purchasing medication because of financial pressure.

“Australia has the finest subsidised medicine scheme in the world in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme,” he said, “but we should be doing everything possible to ensure that people don’t fall through the cracks of this great scheme because failure to take medicines as prescribed can lead to more serious health conditions and higher costs for the health system down the track.”

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