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Free flu vaccinations welcomed by pharmacists, but nation-wide solution needed to curb surge

Tuesday 31 May 2022

 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes announcements from state
governments in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria that will
provide greater access to influenza vaccines for Australians this winter.

 

Throughout June, people aged five years and over will be able to access a free influenza vaccine
from their GP or pharmacist. GPs will continue to administer vaccines to people aged 6 months to
five years old.

 

This follows a similar announcement last week from the Queensland Government.

 

While PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, welcomed the announcement, he cautioned more needs to be done to protect Australians this winter, and in future flu seasons.

 

“Public health teams are rightly alarmed by the surging influenza caseload across the nation. Hospitalisations are already placing strain on stretched health resources. We must act with urgency and work together to vaccinate as many people against influenza as soon as possible.

 

“I thank the South Australian, Western Australian, New South Wales and Victorian governments
for launching free flu vaccine programs following Queensland’s announcement last week. We
urge Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory to immediately follow.

 

“These announcements demonstrate the crucial role that pharmacists continue to play in
protecting the health of Australians. We appreciate that these governments are making a critical
investment, by remunerating pharmacists for providing this service.

 

“However, these state-based time-limited programs are only a band-aid for the bigger problem of
funding arrangements which have not kept pace with population health needs.

 

“We need to make it easier for all Australians to be protected against influenza every year, by
removing cost barriers currently faced by many Australians.

 

“It is time for the Federal Government to extend the Medicare Benefits Schedule to fund the costs
to patients for administration of National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccinations by their
pharmacist”, A/Prof Freeman said.

 

“PSA has been calling for this for some time.”

 

PSA also urges the Federal Government to properly fund the administration of all NIP vaccine
services provided by a pharmacist, so that our most vulnerable Australians no longer face out-of-pocket
expenses.

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

PSA welcomes greater vaccine access for West Australians

21 April 2022

 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s (PSA) WA Branch welcomes the expansion of the state’s vaccination program, announced today by WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson.

 

WA pharmacist immunisers will soon be able to administer National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccinations, including influenza vaccines to children aged 5 years and over, who are eligible under the program.

 

In addition, adolescents will have greater access to vaccines including human papillomavirus (HPV), diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (dTpa), meningococcal ACWY, measles-mumps-rubella and COVID vaccinations, with pharmacists to be allowed to administer all of these vaccines in line with the state immunisation schedule.
PSA WA Branch President, Keegan Wong, welcomed the move.

 

“This is great news for Western Australian parents, with the program’s expansion now meaning that their children can get vaccinated against the flu by their local pharmacist.

 

“With the flu season now in full swing, we need to do everything we can to protect Australian children, who can be influenza super-spreaders, by increasing access to vaccination and providing them and their families with optimal protection against this deadly disease.

 

“School holidays are a great opportunity for kids to come in for their COVID-19 and influenza vaccines on the same day, so strike while the iron’s hot and make an appointment for the whole family today through your local pharmacy.

 

“It also pleasing that state’s vaccination program will soon include vaccination against HPV along with further alignment of age eligibility, and we commend the McGowan Government for this move.

 

PSA will continue to work closely with the WA Government to improve accessibility to the seasonal influenza vaccine, ultimately improving access for vulnerable Western Australians.

 

“It is critical that governments continue to remove barriers to vaccination and align the funding and regulation of pharmacist-administered vaccinations with that of all other authorised immunisers and today’s announcement is a step in the right direction,” Mr Wong said.

 

PSA will also work with the incoming federal government to further reduce financial barriers to vaccination by seeking an MBS service payment to pharmacists for administering National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines.

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

‘The most important election in decades’: Incoming government must prioritise consumer access to pharmacist services.

Sunday 10 April 2022

 

Ahead of what has been dubbed as the most important election in decades, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is renewing calls to prioritise better consumer access to care through fairer remuneration for pharmacist delivered services.

 

Today, the Prime Minister has confirmed that the 2022 Federal Election will be held on Saturday 21st May.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, demanded that both major parties look to address inequitable consumer access to care as a matter of priority for the incoming government.

 

“The Australian public and pharmacists have faced immense challenges and pressures over the past 24 months. Now, more than ever, is the time to ensure that access to health care remains universal, particularly for the most vulnerable of the population. Consumers need subsidised access to care at the health setting and their qualified health professional of choice.

 

“Consumers face out of pocket expenses for the administration of the influenza vaccination under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) if delivered by their pharmacist, whereas, receive subsidies if done at a general practice. It is unacceptable for a consumer not to receive this subsidy for exactly the same service delivered by a qualified health professional in a setting of their choice.

 

“When it comes to case conferences, a critical multidisciplinary process for ensuring quality of care, pharmacists are the only allied health provider that government does not remunerate for their time and participation. This is unacceptable, and at the end of the day, Australians are losing out.

 

“Introducing a Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) payment to pharmacists for administering NIP vaccines, and a separate MBS rebate for pharmacists to be remunerated for participating multidisciplinary case conferences, would increase consumer access to pharmacist skills and expertise.

 

“If these pay disparities continue to exist, it will have dire consequences on Australia’s healthcare system, ultimately leaving patients out of pocket.

 

“We are six weeks out from one of the most important Federal Elections, and the Government’s pandemic response and outlook for the healthcare system will be under the microscope once again. The successful party must rectify these inequalities as a matter of priority, keeping consumers front and centre of their decision making.

 

“It is absolutely critical that the incoming government places consumers at the forefront of their policy decisions, ensuring that pharmacists can continue to deliver essential services which have kept Australians safe during this unprecedented period of uncertainty,” he said.

 

Over the coming months, PSA, the peak body representing Australian pharmacists, is committed to working with the incoming government to tackle these challenges, improving access to pharmacist delivered care and ensuring Australian’s get the care they need, when and where they need it.

Budget supports embedding pharmacists in aged care but ignores pay disparities for pharmacists’ services

Tuesday 29 March 2022

 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes funding for embedding pharmacists into aged care but is disappointed that unfair disparities in pharmacist remuneration for key services have been overlooked in this year’s Federal Budget.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, was frustrated that no commitments were made to improving remuneration for pharmacists’ services in tonight’s Federal Budget.

 

“Whilst we are delighted that the Minister has recognised the important role that pharmacists play, by recently announcing $345.7 million in funding to embed pharmacists in aged care facilities, the fact that fair remuneration for services that pharmacists provide has once again been overlooked by the Government is a bitter pill to swallow.

 

“Despite the immense pressure they’ve been subjected to over the past 24 months and the overwhelming appreciation shown by politicians on Thank Your Pharmacist Day two weeks ago, the Government will continue to significantly undervalue pharmacists for their services for the foreseeable future.

 

“The Government’s failure to rectify these inequalities is unacceptable, and is a slap in the face for pharmacists who kept on delivering during the pandemic. In our Federal Budget Submission, PSA highlighted two key pharmacist services which require immediate financial support – case conferencing and vaccinations.

 

“As it stands, pharmacists are the only health provider that the Government does not remunerate for their time and participation in case conferencing. In addition to this, pharmacists are being remunerated at a significantly lower rate than other providers for providing exactly the same vaccination services, including vaccinations against COVID-19.

 

“Introducing an MBS service payment to pharmacists for administering National Immunisation Program vaccines, and a separate MBS rebate for pharmacists to be remunerated for multidisciplinary case conferences, would increase consumer access to pharmacist expertise and skills.

 

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to funding pharmacist roles in aged care, and this initiative will present new and exciting career opportunities for Australian pharmacists. However, if these pay disparities continue to exist, it will have dire consequences on Australian healthcare, jeopardising the future of the pharmacist workforce.

 

“Ahead of the Federal Election, we are calling on the incoming government to prioritise these concerns, improving conditions for pharmacists and ensuring that Australians can continue to access high-quality, accessible care,” he said.

 

A/Prof Freeman went on to acknowledge the Government’s commitment to reducing the cost of medicines, but again, much more work must be done.

 

“In a budget aimed at tackling the cost of living, PSA agrees with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia that reducing PBS Safety Net thresholds does not adequately address the rising cost of prescription medicines,” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

Concession card holders will need 12 fewer prescriptions to reach the safety net, and general patients approximately 2 fewer scripts.

 

PSA also welcomes the commitment of $19.6 million to a national take-home naloxone program, following a successful pilot where pharmacists enhanced access to this life-saving rescue medicine.

 

Over the coming months, PSA is committed to working with the current and incoming government to tackle these challenges that Australian pharmacists face.

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

Australians now reassured they will have access to essential medicines in their next emergency

Friday 25 March 2022

 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) strongly supports today’s announcement that continued dispensing arrangements will become permanent later this year.

 

This morning, the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Greg Hunt, announced that from 1 July 2021, continued dispensing arrangements, currently set to expire on 30 June, will become permanent across Australia.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, applauded the development.

 

“From the 1st of July this year, a permanent measure will come into effect which ensures that Australians can continue to access essential medicines during times of an emergency. We applaud the Government making these common-sense arrangements permanent.

 

“Whether it be a pandemic, flood, bushfire, or a family tragedy, this provides Australians with confidence they can access their essential medicines when they may not be able to access their prescriptions or a doctor.

 

“Being able to access PBS subsidy for emergency supply of medicines is vital to ensuring patients are not hit with out-of-pocket costs during vulnerable times.

 

“These emergency measures have clearly been successful throughout the pandemic. Over an 18-month period, between January 2020 and the end of June 2021, more than 600,000 vital medicines were accessed under these provisions.

 

“After a tumultuous few years of natural disasters and five temporary extensions to the measures, this was the logical and sensible step to take – particularly given no major problems have been identified.

 

“PSA’s standards and guidelines have proved critical to helping the profession navigate the expanded provisions throughout the pandemic.

 

“Now it’s up to state and territory governments to enable this by ensuring that regulations and barriers currently precluding these arrangements are removed,” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

PSA will continue to work closely with all governments to progress and implement nationally consistent emergency supply provisions.

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

 

Support for pharmacists

Tasmanian pharmacists now eligible to vaccinate children against COVID-19

Friday 25th March 2022

 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s (PSA) Tasmanian Branch has welcomed the announcement that pharmacist immunisers in Tasmania are now eligible to protect the state’s children against COVID-19.

 

Today, Premier Gutwein confirmed changes to allow the provision of COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5-11 through local pharmacies.

 

PSA Tasmania Branch President, David Peachey, said immunity in Tasmania’s young people is the missing link at the moment and pharmacists can play a key role in protecting this important population.

 

“This is welcomed news for Tasmania’s pharmacist immunisers, who will now be able to opt-in to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to this paediatric cohort.

 

“We are delighted that the state will now be brought in line with the rest of the nation, improving access to vaccination for families residing in regional parts of the state.

 

“It is imperative that all Tasmanian children can access COVID-19 vaccinations from pharmacists, Australia’s most accessible healthcare workforce, in order to keep themselves, their families and the community safe.

 

“Vaccination is the best way to ensure that these susceptible populations and their families are protected against the virus, and soon, they’ll have the convenient option of protecting themselves through local pharmacies.

 

“Our pharmacists are trained and experienced in vaccinating younger age groups against other vaccine-preventable diseases and are now on standby to protect them against COVID-19.

 

“Authorised immunisers must have successfully completed the mandatory vaccine training provided by the Department of Health, including all the relevant vaccine-specific modules for vaccines available through the pharmacy program,” Mr Peachey said.

 

PSA continues to work closely with the TGA and ATAGI to ensure pharmacists are equipped with the most up-to-date advice regarding vaccine safety and effectiveness.

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

 

PSA welcomes Government’s commitment to improve medicine safety in Aged Care

Friday 25 March 2022

 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide funding of $345.7 million to improve medicine safety for older Australians by embedding pharmacists in residential aged care facilities.

 

This morning, the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Greg Hunt, announced that from 1 January 2023, pharmacists will play an even greater role in dispensing medicines within Australia’s residential aged care facilities.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, was in attendance when the announcement was made.

 

“Today’s announcement from Minister Hunt has been long-awaited. This is a win for those residents who will now have greater access to medicines experts, our pharmacists, and I have no doubt that this sentiment will be shared by the aged care sector.

 

“PSA has been advocating for funding to improve medicine safety in residential aged care facilities since 2018, following the establishment of the Royal Commission into Aged Care – and now, almost four years later, the Government has taken action.

 

“The Royal Commission into Aged Care detailed well-known issues like the overuse of psychotropic medicines, and since then, troubling data on medication misadventure has continued to emerge.

 

“Since the Royal Commission was established, PSA has been working closely with all governments to implement recommendations outlined in our Medicine safety: aged care report from 2020, and it is incredibly pleasing to see that our advice has been heeded.

 

“With more than 19,000 Australians in residential aged care prescribed antipsychotics with no indication, the level of chemical restraint must be addressed. We also know that the more medicines someone is prescribed, the more likely it is to cause harm.

 

“The evidence is clear – pharmacists need to be an embedded part of the aged care equation if medication misadventure is to be minimised and rectified.

 

“As the custodians and experts of medication safety, embedding pharmacists in aged care is the obvious solution to address the longstanding issues of polypharmacy and chemical restraint in aged care facilities. We are delighted that the Government will now invest in our pharmacist workforce to improve the quality of care for aged care residents.

 

“Over the next four years, this $345.7 million contribution to supporting pharmacists embedded in aged care will make a significant difference to protecting and improving the quality of life for our aged care residents. Consultation on the most suitable model will occur over the next six months.

 

“It is crucial that aged care service providers are allowed the flexibility to determine how they secure pharmacist services. Some facilities may choose to contract pharmacists through community pharmacies, some may choose to employ a pharmacist directly, or via a third party.

 

“It can’t be a one size fits all approach as every facility is different. Therefore, all of these options must be accommodated.

 

“We look forward to working with the Minister and the Department of Health on the implementation.” A/Prof Freeman said.

 

Get involved

PSA is here to support Australian pharmacists who are interested in working within the aged care sector. For more information on becoming a Residential Aged Care Pharmacist, please visit this link. PSA also offers the Residential Aged Care Pharmacist: Foundation Training Program, available here.

 

Background

PSA’s Medicine safety: aged care report found that:

 

  • Over 95% of people living in aged care facilities have at least one problem with their medicines detected at the time of a medicines review; most have three problems
  • 50% of people with dementia are taking medicines with anticholinergic properties, which can worsen confusion and other symptoms of dementia.
  • One fifth of people living in aged care are on antipsychotics; more than half use the medicine for too long.

 

The Report from the Royal Commission in to Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended that “the Australian Government immediately improve access to quality medication management reviews for people receiving aged care by:

  1. allowing and funding pharmacists from 1 January 2022 to conduct reviews on entry to residential care and annually thereafter, or more often if there has been a significant change to the person receiving care’s condition or medication regimen;
  2. amending the criteria for eligibility for residential medication management reviews to include people in residential respite care and transition care;
  3. monitoring quality and consistency of medication management reviews.”

 

The Royal Commission detailed well known issues in medicine management – notably the use of restrictive practices which could not be justified in 90% of cases, and overuse of sedating medicines.

 

PSA has suggested that a flexible practice model is needed to give aged care providers and residents the best access to pharmacist-delivered care, and accreditation of pharmacists entering aged care to perform medication reviews must remain mandatory to support consistent, high quality care.

 

 

Media contact: PSA media 0424 777 463

Pharmacist named NSW Premier’s Woman of the Year!

9 March 2022

 

 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) congratulates Anna Barwick on being named the NSW Premier’s Woman of the Year. The NSW Women of the Year Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding contributions from women across the state.

 

Ms Barwick, PSA’s 2021 NSW Pharmacist of the Year, was honoured by Premier Perrottet in Sydney this morning for her contribution to the state’s health system and telehealth more specifically. Ms Barwick also served on PSA’s NSW Branch Committee from July 2014 to June 2020.

 

A PhD candidate at the University of Queensland who hails from Walcha, Ms Barwick is the founder of PharmOnline, an innovative platform which connects Australian patients living in remote areas with pharmacy services.

 

PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, congratulated Anna on her achievement.

 

“On behalf of the PSA, I congratulate Anna on receiving this prestigious award – she is utterly deserving of such an honour.

 

“As a PSA member and last year’s Pharmacist of the Year in NSW, Anna’s efforts have ensured that Australians living in geographically remote areas can access essential healthcare, particularly in the management of safe medication use, irrespective of their location.

 

“Anna was also a recipient of PSA’s Pharmacy Shark Tank award at our national conference last year and PSA is proud to have supported Anna with her innovation.

 

“Anna truly embodies excellence in pharmacy, and on the back of International Women’s Day yesterday, I am delighted to see that an outstanding female pharmacist has been acknowledged for her devotion to improving the lives of the NSW community,” he said.

 

Upon receiving the award, Ms Barwick said her focus is to improve the health of Australians living in regional areas.

 

“It is an honour and a privilege to be recognised amongst an outstanding group of women in both the NSW Minerals Council Regional Woman and the Premier’s Woman Award. I would like to thank the sponsors and organisers from the Department of Communities and Justice, along with the Minister for Women, The Hon Bronnie Taylor, for championing women on IWD.

 

“I dedicate this honour to all pharmacists and pharmacy staff that remained available and supported their local communities throughout the pandemic. You are truly inspirational!

 

“My team of pharmacists is growing. They have a number of specialities that are not readily available in regional and rural areas, helping to reduce barriers to medication expertise and healthcare. I would like to thank them for putting their trust in me to create a new way to access pharmacists.

 

PSA congratulates Anna on her achievement and thanks her for her service to Australian pharmacy.

 

Learn more about Anna’s work in Australian Pharmacist