Utilise pharmacists to protect health of Queenslanders

Monday, 3 February 2020


Implementation of five strategic measures would enable the state’s 6,370 pharmacists to help protect Queenslanders against preventable diseases, medication-related problems and unnecessary hospital presentations, according to the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s pre-budget submission.


“Over the past few months, our nation has experienced one of the worst bushfire seasons in history. During this emergency, many people have had to urgently evacuate their homes, leaving behind many of their personal possessions, sometimes including life-saving medicines. This crisis has demonstrated the shortcomings of current legislation, which only allows pharmacists to supply three-days of medicines in an emergency situation. Those impacted not only find it exceptionally challenging to get a prescription, but should not have this additional worry at such a stressful time.”


PSA recommends the Queensland Government amend emergency supply provisions to allow pharmacists to supply a standard manufacturer pack size of medicines in an emergency or disaster.


“In most cases, this would give people access to at least 30 days of medicine;a common sense change for a decentralised state such as Queensland,” Mr Campbell said.


“Last year, Queensland had a record-breaking flu season with more than 68,000 influenza notifications and more than 3,000 hospitalisations, as well as 74 cases of measles compared to 14 in 2018 and just eight in 2017,” Mr Campbell said. “Immunisation helps stop the spread of these types of preventable diseases, yet less than 40 per cent of at-risk adults are considered to be fully vaccinated.”


To increase vaccination rates, PSA is recommending expanding the range of vaccines trained pharmacists are able to administer.


“Pharmacists are already authorised to provide vaccinations, but there are some limiting restrictions. If these are removed, we believe vaccination rates would increase,” Mr Campbell said. “Most Australians visit their pharmacist around 14 times a year. This high level of accessibility, combined with the trust consumers have in the profession, will encourage more people to get immunised.”


“Over 70,000 emergency department presentations in Queensland each year are considered non-urgent. This means patients have less-serious ailments, such as minor pain management or cold and flu,” PSA Queensland President, Chris Campbell said. “Our hospital system is under increasing pressure and with the majority of these non-urgent presentations occurring during the typical business hours of a community pharmacy, we think pharmacists can help ease the burden.”


“Research shows pharmacists have the skills and expertise to support patients for less serious ailments who would currently seek care from a hospital. Pharmacists can provide self-care advice or triage patients and refer them to the appropriate health service if necessary.”


PSA is calling on the Queensland Government to allocate $26 million over 4 years to fund management of non-urgent or low-urgency medical conditions through community pharmacy and to implement a consumer awareness campaign.


In Australia, 250,000 hospital admissions a year are a result of medicine-related problems, costing the health care system $1.4 billion per year. Fifty per cent of this harm is preventable.


“Older Australians are particularly vulnerable to medicine-related problems,” Mr Campbell said. “PSA research found 98 per cent of aged care resident have at least one medicine-related problem. Pharmacists, as medicine experts, can help ensure medicines are used effectively, improve patient adherence, and reduce the risk of medication errors and harm.”


In its submission, PSA proposes the Queensland Government employ pharmacists in state-operated residential aged care facilities to improve the Quality Use of Medicines and to reduce the harm caused by overuse of psychotropic medicines, opioids and antibiotics.


PSA’s Pre-Budget Submission also calls on the Government to establish the role of Queensland Chief Pharmacist to provide coordinated advice and oversight on medicine-related matters within the state health system.


Download the report here.


Media contact: Mark Lock, PSA Queensland – 0406 609 671