Federal Budget has the opportunity to strengthen healthcare access – will the Government take it?
2 February 2023
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has used its pre-Budget submission to urge the Albanese Government to invest in national vaccination programs and strengthen access to health care for all Australians.
PSA has urged the government introduce a Medicare Benefits Schedule payment for pharmacist immunisations modelled on the Level B payment available to GPs. The MBS fee would be available in all primary care locations pharmacists vaccinate, including community pharmacies and general practice.
PSA’s 2023-24 Pre-Budget Submission also highlights the need for nationally consistent vaccination standards that allow all patients to receive all vaccinations from their local pharmacist, regardless of their age or type of vaccination.
PSA National President Dr Fei Sim said that the Federal Government has the opportunity to ensure that every Australian has equitable access to vaccination, regardless of where they live.
“Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective interventions against preventable disease,” Dr Sim said.
“We need to be doing everything we can to remove barriers and encourage more Australians to get vaccinated and be protected against preventable diseases like influenza, Meningococcal and HPV.
“For many Australians pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers, with extended opening hours and short wait times. We could be taking advantage of this, but instead governments have restricted the vaccinations we can provide in a pharmacy or general practice.
“Each state and territory has its own set of rules in place about which patients can be vaccinated by pharmacists, depending on age and the vaccination itself.
“In NSW, a pharmacists can provide a catch-up vaccination for a HPV shot missed during COVID lockdowns, but not in the ACT.
“A five-year-old can be vaccinated against influenza by a pharmacist in Victoria, while they would have to wait up to six weeks for a GP appointment in the Northern Territory or Tasmania – some of the jurisdictions with the worst wait times for GP appointments.
“These differences make no sense, and place people’s health at risk.
“It is not fair that children in one state might have greater access to a vital vaccination than children in another state.
“Pharmacists have already administered more than 10 million COVID-19 vaccines over the last two years, on top of millions more influenza vaccines. This shows that the pharmacist profession is ready, and that Australians want to be able to access pharmacist-led vaccination.
“Empowering pharmacists to deliver vaccines has been proven, time and time again, to boost vaccination rates.
“Expanding access to life-saving vaccinations is a common sense move that will improve the health and wellbeing of Australians, while also freeing up GP appointments for more complex health needs.
“Harmonising vaccination standards across the country, allowing pharmacists to play a greater role in vaccination programs, will reduce confusion across states, among the public and healthcare professionals.
“Above all else it’s about improving access to healthcare,” Dr Sim concluded.
PSA’s 2023-24 Budget Submission is available here.
More information on pharmacy numbers, state regulations and other data is available on request.
Media contact: Georgia Clarke M: 0480 099 798 E: firstname.lastname@example.org