Debate Encouraged on Role of Pharmacists in Primary Care

By Petrina Smith
Wednesday, 03 September, 2014

The Consumers' Health Forum says the AMA's concerns about the Pharmacy Guild proposal for the Federal Government to fund pharmacies to provide cholesterol and blood pressure checks, vaccinations, and non-prescription treatments for minor ailment, raises some important questions about the role of pharmacists in primary care in Australia and negotiations around the 6th community pharmacy agreement.

While the CHF recognises pharmacists play an essential role as frontline health professionals who provide timely expert advice on medicines and aspects of healthcare and in a  recent submission to a Victorian Parliamentary Committee Inquiry, CHF has been broadly supportive of an expansion in the scope of practice of this skilled workforce.

“CHF believes that consumers benefit from, and appreciate, the ease of access, and the personalised services such as medication management and vaccinations, that they can get from pharmacists in the community without waiting for a GP appointment.  It is essential, however, that such services be provided in a safe, confidential environment, with necessary follow up or referral where required.” said CHF CEO Adam Stankevicius.

“Strong international evidence also supports the delivery of ‘less complex’ services by pharmacists and research by the Grattan Institute estimates that with additional training, pharmacists could take on five per cent of the workload of GPs in less accessible rural and remote areas.

“CHF supports the view that appropriately trained allied health professionals including pharmacists and nurse practitioners should be able to provide basic primary and preventative care and vital health services like vaccinations in an appropriate environment, particularly where it makes such services more accessible especially to the elderly and young families and communities in rural and remote areas.”

“CHF agrees with AMA that the transparent Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) process is the appropriate place for the consideration of government funding for such services, not the secretive Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations.  Further discussion and analysis of this proposal is clearly required, particularly about whether any changes would lead to additional out of pocket costs for consumers.

“More broadly, the professions, government and consumers need a transparent nationwide discussion on the best way to deliver primary care services to all in Australia, in a consumer-centred manner which is safe, effective, accessible and timely. This includes whatever plans the government has for the sixth community pharmacy agreement.

“The future of healthcare is increasingly moving towards a consumer-centred and driven service delivery, and CHF sees responsive pharmacists in the community as an integral component of delivering that type of care” Adam Stankevicius said.

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