Budget an opportunity to improve health care for Tasmanians

The state’s 784 registered pharmacists could help significantly improve the health of Tasmanians with implementation of a few relatively low cost or no-cost measures, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has championed in its 2020-21 Pre-Budget Submission.


A key recommendation is to more fully utilise pharmacists in the provision of after-hours care for minor ailments.


“For a whole raft of reasons our emergency departments are under immense pressure,” PSA Tasmania President, Dr Ella van Tienen said. “Contributing to the burden are the number of presentations by patients with less-serious ailments, such as minor pain management or cold and flu.


“Recent research shows pharmacists have the skills and expertise to support patients who would currently seek care from a GP or hospital. Pharmacists can provide self-care advice, which in most cases is what is needed, or triage patients and refer them to the appropriate health service.


“Pharmacists are located throughout our local communities and a network are already open after-hours, making them well placed to do more. We estimate this initiative could save Tasmania’s health budget over $4 million a year.”


PSA is seeking funding of $2 million for a two-year pilot program under which pharmacists spread geographically access the state are incentivised to offer expanded after-hours service.


The budget submission also calls for $700,000 to enable a dedicated medicine safety pharmacist to work in each of the state’s five adult mental health services.


“Tasmania’s mental health outpatient facilities provide care to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Medicines are a major treatment modality for many people with a mental illness and due to the nature of these medicines and complexity of medication regimes, there is increased risk of medication error and harm,” Dr van Tienen explained.


“Tasmania actually has the highest proportion of people dispensed with mental health-related prescriptions. To ensure these medicines are used safely we would like pharmacists more actively involved in the care team.”


Enabling pharmacists to provide a broader range of vaccinations would help further protect Tasmanians against preventable infectious diseases, PSA has argued.


“While this year has seen an expansion in scope of vaccines administered by pharmacists, we still lag behind other states in terms of allowing pharmacists to provide eligible Tasmanians with access to vaccines funded on the National Immunisation Program (NIP), such as influenza vaccinations” Dr van Tienen said. “With pharmacists located in rural and remote areas where other health professionals may be limited, these communities would benefit from access to NIP vaccinations through their local pharmacy.”


Supporting pharmacists to provide HPV and Hepatitis A vaccinations will also help remove barriers limiting Tasmanians from getting vaccinated and increase herd immunity.


“With around 200 pharmacist immunisers already fully trained, this recommendation could be quickly, cost effectively and safely implemented,” Dr van Tienen said. “In fact, we believe there is no direct budget investment required.


The second nil cost measure proposed by PSA is to expand the current pilot of the Hospital Liaison Pharmacist program to link back into the patient’s community pharmacists and ensure safe transfer of care at discharge.


“In terms of their health care journey, the point of hospital discharge presents one of the highest risks of medication error,” Dr van Tienen said. “Over 90 per cent of patients have at least one medication related problem post-discharge from hospital. As their community pharmacist is most likely to be the first health care provider a patient sees after hospital discharge the pharmacist can help patients understand, manage and adhere to their medication regime and prevent avoidable readmissions, but only if they are fully informed.”


PSA’s 2020-21 Tasmanian Budget Submission is available here.
Dr Ella van Tienen is available for interview and photographs


Media contact: Ella van Tienen 0419 335 893, media@psa.org.au