PSA calls for support to allow pharmacists do more for public health

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) calls on Victoria’s political parties to improve Victorians’ access to healthcare by allowing pharmacists to do more, including through Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (MATOD) services.


PSA Victorian President Benjamin Marchant said pharmacists were the most frequently contacted health professionals in Victoria, yet their skills were not being put to full use.


“The upcoming Victorian state election is the ideal time to commit to new reforms for a healthier Victoria, and PSA urges Victorian political parties to take full advantage of the highly trained pharmacist workforce by committing to provide $2.2 million in seed funding for a pilot of the shared care model for MATOD services in Victoria.”


MATOD services consist of two key components to fight licit and illicit drug abuse and misuse – prescribing doctors or nurse practitioners, and pharmacists who dispense the medications and monitor treatment progress on a daily basis.


Mr Marchant said there was overwhelming evidence that illicit drugs and misuse of pharmaceutical medicines were a major community concern, creating a significant burden on the Victorian health system, law enforcement and community welfare.


“The referral pathway to support and manage addiction is at break ing point and MATOD services are under enormous pressure,” he said. “There is a severe shortage of MATOD prescribers despite the Victorian government’s repeated efforts over many years to recruit doctors and nurse practitioners.“


With the implementation of Victoria’s real-time prescription monitoring system, SafeScript, over the next 18 months, the demand for MATOD services is likely to increase significantly, putting additional pressure on the already strained prescriber pool.”


After consulting with a broad range of stakeholders, PSA has determined there is scope for pharmacists to support a more sustainable collaborative model that provides consumers with wider options, reduces pressure on prescribers and ensures a more holistic approach to patients’ wellbeing.


Mr Marchant said,“There is strong evidence that government funding for MATOD would enhance compliance, minimise stigma and encourage more pharmacists to offer this much-needed service. This funding has received universal support from the Victorian Alcohol and Other Drugs sector and is one of the recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry on Drug Law Reform.”


To support this service, PSA calls on Victorian political parties to fully fund MATOD dispensing and management fees for patients.


PSA also urges political parties to allow the public to be able to receive the full range of National Immunisation Program vaccines from pharmacists.


“Victorian pharmacists have provided vaccinations since 2016 and the public has given excellent feedback on the safety and convenience of this service,” Mr Marchant said. “More Victorians than ever have been immunised, including many people for the first time.”


International and local research has shown pharmacists can boost vaccination rates, and independent research commissioned by PSA has revealed almost two-in-three Australians believe pharmacists should be able to administer a broader range of vaccinations.


Mr Marchant said, “The restricted range of pharmacist vaccination is needlessly forcing people to visit multiple providers to get fully immunised under the National Immunisation Program, creating unnecessary barriers that compromise the population’s overall immunity.“


Victorians clearly value the work pharmacists are doing and believe they can do more. Now is the time to remove these constraints to give the public better access to the health services they need.”


PSA is also calling for the appointment of a Chief Pharmacist in Victoria to make better use of pharmacist resources.


“The Chief Pharmacist would provide a crucial link between regulation, programs, funding and infrastructure. This much-needed position would foster collaboration between pharmacy and other
health professions, and provide advice to the government to advance policy development, planning and health reform,” Mr Marchant said.


“Pharmacists are a critical part of the Victorian health system, helping to implement major reforms such as real-time prescription monitoring, Supercare 24-hour pharmacies, chronic diseases management and drug law reform.“


The above measures are urgently needed to improve health outcomes for Victorians and ease the burden on the overloaded health system.”


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