In an innovative move to benefit the health of aged care residents, Health Minister Guy Barnett has announced that Tasmanian pharmacists will soon be able to prescribe medicines for aged care patients in collaboration with their general practitioner under a new nation-leading pilot program.
Implemented in the coming months, this nation-leading pilot program is a key recommendation from the independent Pharmacist Scope of Practice Review commissioned by the Rockliff Liberal Government, to provide a comprehensive assessment of the role of pharmacists in Tasmania.
Minister for Health, Guy Barnett, said the initiative would improve the medication safety of residents and lead to a better quality of life, helping prevent hospital presentations.
“This is an announcement about innovation, doing things a bit differently. I’m pleased to release the independent pharmacy scope of practice review and their 12 recommendations as a government, we’re backing in all 12 recommendations. In particular I’m announcing reforms which are nation leading, specifically with respect to pharmacists dispensing prescriptions in aged care facilities around Tasmania.”
“I am confident that pharmacists working collaboratively with GPs and prescribing within the safeguards of a treatment plan approved by the GP will significantly improve patient care.”
The pilot initiative is expected to be rolled out in the coming months, in consultation with GP’s, pharmacists, consumers and the department over the coming months prior to the 1st January.
As part of the announcement, women will also have access to treatment for uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs), subject to stringent protocols.
“This is being done in other parts of Australia, other jurisdictions this should be made available here in Tasmania, putting Tasmanian women upfront and providing those healthcare services that they need.”
Helen O’Byrne, of Pharmacy Guild of Australia – Tasmanian Branch welcomed the announcement to open the gateway to protocols around prescribing medications, sharing that it is an exciting step forward for community pharmacy.
“It means that women can access treatments for urinary tract infections in a pharmacy setting,”
Helen O’Byrne stated that statistics show over 60% of women experience a Urinary Tract Infection in their lifetime which can be very frustrating and painful if not treated in a timely manner and by allowing treatment in pharmacy, this will reduce the impact on emergency departments and GP’s.
She continued, “We’re also welcoming the ability to vaccinate for HPV in community pharmacy, and that will be rolled out in January along with the urinary tract infection trial. So we really welcome this announcement today and look forward to community pharmacy contributing to the Primary Health of Tasmanian women.”
CEO Bruce Levitt of Health Consumers Tasmania believes this represents a great example of the government involving the community voice.
“Community voice was taken seriously and we believe we’ve positively influenced the outcomes of the report so we’re very pleased for that,” he said.
“We believe that the recommendations will go a long way in improving access for people in Tasmania to receive healthcare, we think It’s particularly important for those in rural remote areas that once the 12 recommendations are fully implemented, that it will improve access, particularly for those who struggle to get access to healthcare.”
While there may be disagreements among professional bodies, including doctors and pharmacists, regarding the pilot program, Bruce Levitt clarified that Tasmanian consumers have consistently expressed their desire for greater collaboration among primary care professionals.
Furthermore, he noted that Tasmanians seem very happy to present at a pharmacy and get the medications and/or vaccinations that they need.
“They want governments to mobilise all professions, GP’s, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, community nurses, peer workers so that they all work together at the frontline in a cooperative way.”
Out of the 12 recommendations, Bruce said they are advocating for about four of them and were pleased to learn they had been picked up.
“We believe pharmacists have a really strong role to play in preventative care, doing screening. We think that’s really good, but that’s one of the recommendations.”
Another recommendation backed by Health Consumers Tasmania is that pharmacies should expand their involvement in administering vaccinations, along with emphasising the importance of pharmacists having the ability to independently prescribe medication when it is safe to do so.