The Inquiry into Community Pharmacy in Victoria was released in October 2014 in response to an Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) report predicting that demand for medical services will soon outstrip supply. With 18% of currently practicing medical practitioners above 60 years of age, and an increasing need for healthcare services, involving pharmacists more in the provision of primary and preventive care services should be welcome to all practitioners.

The report found it anomalous that “unlike many other health care providers, pharmacists do not charge for advice, do not have Medicare provider numbers and patients cannot seek reimbursement for the cost of pharmacist services through private health insurance”.

The 17 recommendations range from expanding the Queensland trial which saw over 10,000 people immunised against influenza by pharmacists in 2014, to strategies that better utilise technology, such as Telehealth and electronic health records.

Existing skills should be leveraged to relieve GPs of some of the 23 million visits for management of ‘less complex’ conditions each year, and triaging minor ailments in rural areas. Furthermore, the consequences of medicine related problems may be prevented for patients, and subsequent costs reduced for the community, by enabling a broader range of pharmacist services through legislation and resourcing. Proposed services include providing medicine reviews, disease screening, opioid dependence treatment, dose administration aids, and expansion of the Commonwealth’s Continued Dispensing initiative.

The Chair of the Parliamentary committee, Georgie Crozier MLC, observed that: “Pharmacists are highly trained and trusted and can be better utilised”.

References:

  1. Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Legislation Committee. Inquiry into Community Pharmacy in Victoria. No. 3. Melbourne: Legislative Council; 2014.
  2. Medical Board of Australia. Medical Practitioner Registrant Data: June 2014. Melbourne: Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency; 2014.

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