The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) has recently welcomed the recommendations of a Senate inquiry into access to contraception and sexual health care services. Their support echoes the call for health professionals to practice to their full scope, especially when it comes to women's reproductive health. The Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee’s report, titled "Ending the postcode lottery: Addressing barriers to sexual, maternity, and reproductive healthcare in Australia," also calls for increased Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) coverage for contraceptives and a review of sexual and reproductive healthcare training. These recommendations align with SHPA's vision for improving equitable care for women across the country, and they emphasise the crucial role of pharmacists with specialty skills in achieving this goal.
Pharmacists as Key Players in Reproductive Health
SHPA President Tom Simpson highlights the essential role that hospital pharmacists play in maternity and reproductive health. These pharmacists provide expert advice to medical and nursing colleagues and women of childbearing age regarding the evidence-based use of medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, despite their expertise, clinical pharmacy services for these patients often take a back seat due to limited workforce resources.
The Need for Specialty Skills
To address this issue, the Senate Committee recognises the need for additional workforce investment, which aligns with SHPA's Standards of Practice in Clinical Pharmacy Services. Mr. Simpson emphasises the importance of expanding the highly skilled pharmacy workforce, particularly in maternity and reproductive health. Quality training programs, such as SHPA’s Foundation Residencies and Women’s and Newborn Health Advanced Training Residencies, are instrumental in upskilling pharmacists to support pregnant and breastfeeding women in various healthcare settings. These programs are uniquely positioned to meet the specific needs of this patient population.
Expanding PBS Coverage for Reproductive Healthcare
Mr. Simpson also welcomes the Senate Committee's call for broader PBS coverage to reduce care inequity. Medicines play a vital role in women's health and reproductive healthcare, including contraception, fertility treatment, pregnancy, and termination. However, the cost of essential medications, such as maternity multivitamins, can be a barrier to access when they are not subsidised on the PBS. Expanding PBS listings for contraceptives is another crucial step toward facilitating choice and ensuring that healthcare aligns with current guidance.
The Role of Pharmacists with Specialty Expertise
In achieving comprehensive reproductive healthcare access, pharmacists with specific expertise play a pivotal role. They should be present in all healthcare settings where patients receive sexual and reproductive healthcare. This is especially crucial for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as they often require medicines as part of their healthcare. Pharmacists with specialty skills can empower these patients to make informed and evidence-based decisions about their healthcare, ultimately improving their overall well-being.
The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia is at the forefront of advocating for improved access to reproductive healthcare. Their support for the Senate Committee's recommendations underscores the importance of specialty pharmacist expertise and training in enhancing care for women across the country. By expanding the pharmacist workforce in maternity and reproductive health and increasing PBS coverage for essential medications, we can work toward a future where all women have equitable access to the healthcare they need.
For more information about SHPA and their initiatives, you can visit SHPA's official website.
Nick Sharp-Paul, Acting Chief Executive
Phone: 0411 098 838
About SHPA: The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) is the national, professional organization for over 6,100 hospital pharmacists, hospital pharmacist interns, and hospital pharmacy technicians working across Australia's healthcare system. SHPA advocates for their pivotal role in improving the safety and quality of medicines use. SHPA members are known for their commitment to clinical excellence, evidence-based practice, and patient care.
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