The release of the 2023 Intergenerational Report by the Australian government has sparked significant discussion within the healthcare sector. This report, which projects an increase in healthcare spending from 4.2% to 6.2% of GDP in 40 years, highlights the need for innovative solutions to meet the growing demands on the health network while ensuring the sustainability of Australia's healthcare system. In response to this report, two prominent organisations, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, have voiced their perspectives on how pharmacists can contribute to addressing these challenges and improving healthcare outcomes.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia's Perspective
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, in response to the Intergenerational Report, emphasises the crucial role of community pharmacies in delivering healthcare services more effectively. They argue that enabling pharmacists to work to their full scope of practice is essential to meet the growing healthcare demands. According to Professor Trent Twomey, the National President of the Pharmacy Guild, allowing pharmacists to treat and prescribe medicine for uncomplicated conditions, such as urinary tract infections, would have several benefits.
Reduced Hospital Stays: A recent EY report suggests that increasing the role of community pharmacies in treating everyday health conditions could lead to a reduction of 352,000 hospital stays annually. This would significantly ease the burden on hospitals and reduce healthcare costs.
Emergency Department Capacity: The same report estimates that this expansion of pharmacist roles could free up 52,000 hours of Emergency Department capacity annually. This is a critical factor in addressing the challenges faced by emergency departments.
Improved GP Waiting Times: By alleviating the need for 6.5 million GP presentations each year, community pharmacies could contribute to shorter waiting times for patients seeking primary care.
Economic Benefits: The EY report further estimates an annual economic benefit of $5.1 billion nationwide by allowing community pharmacies to play a more significant role in healthcare delivery.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's Perspective
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) also responds to the Intergenerational Report by emphasising the importance of pharmacists in addressing Australia's evolving healthcare needs. Dr. Fei Sim, PSA National President, acknowledges that the ageing population and rising demand for care will place additional pressure on the healthcare system.
Dr. Sim highlights the urgent and long-term need for pharmacists in all practice areas to work to their full scope. This includes pharmacists in rural and remote communities, where access to care is a growing issue. The PSA supports the idea that pharmacists are highly trained health professionals who can safely and effectively manage common ailments. They emphasise the need for meaningful investment and funding to empower pharmacists to deliver crucial healthcare services.
The Federal Government's Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce Review, led by Professor Mark Cormack, is seen as an opportunity to align the scope of practice for healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, with the recommendations of the Intergenerational Report. The PSA looks forward to collaborating with Professor Cormack's team to ensure equitable access to healthcare for all Australians.
In response to the 2023 Intergenerational Report, both the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia have highlighted the essential role of pharmacists in addressing the challenges posed by Australia's changing demographics and healthcare needs. Enabling pharmacists to work to their full scope of practice is seen as a key solution to reduce healthcare costs, improve access to care, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the healthcare system. The ongoing collaboration between healthcare organisations, policymakers, and professionals will be vital in shaping the future of healthcare in Australia.
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