“Safe and effective medicines for all”

Today marks the World Pharmacist Day 2019. Professional Pharmacists Australia welcomes the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) view that the “[pharmacy] profession ensures access to medicines and their appropriate use, improving [medication] adherence, care transition and so much more.”

You can watch the President’s full statement here.

The theme, “Safe and effective medicines for all”,  to mark World Pharmacists Day 2019 couldn’t come at a more appropriate time for Australian pharmacy. Through ongoing negotiations and discussions, key stakeholders are are looking at ways to utilise pharmacists to better deliver safe and effective medicines to the community.

We take this occasion to present opportunities for the industry to have a greater impact on the healthcare system.

Communication

Pharmacy should be integrated into the health system and not be treated as a separate entity. There needs better communication between the prescriber and the patient’s pharmacist.

For example: A medication management plan should be shared with the pharmacist who is in a position to systematically monitor the progress and outcomes of medication plans. The pharmacist can adjust doses in line with the parameters of the plan, and refer the patient back to the prescriber in a timely when outcomes have not been achieved in the expected time frame, or the condition is worsening.

Such an approach would be particularly suitable in the care of people with chronic illnesses.

Training and development

Other health professions can dispense a limited number of specified medications following an approved accreditation course, so why can’t pharmacists? There are current models for pharmacists to prescribe to a limited extent. In these models, they assist the community with common ailments like the flu or gastro, even provide medical certificates without the need to visit the GP. In the Over the Counter (OTC) area of practice, for example, pharmacists prescribe medicines autonomously under defined protocols that guide them through this process, along with clearly written professional obligations.

Undergraduate programs already provide text book knowledge with limited exposure to clinical practice, that is not comprehensive to the level that several years of clinical experience and ongoing experiential social and administrative learning. So in order for pharmacists to prescribe, additional training and development to supplement their knowledge is necessary.


Strain on the healthcare system

In WA, there is talk about expanding the role of pharmacists which could greatly assist the burden of the health industry. Seeing a pharmacist who is allowed to practice to their full scope could prove to be more practical (logistics and cost)  than arranging and travelling to a doctor’s appointment, especially in rural areas.

If allowed to practice to their full scope, we believe this will encourage pharmacists, doctors and other health professionals to work collaboratively for the benefit of the consumer. Not only that, pharmacists practising to their full scope can greatly reduce the strain on the health industry.

For example: As part of the Home Medication Review Service, we would like to see pharmacists working alongside the medical practitioner on an appointment basis to provide medications related advice and monitoring feedback (through a pharmacist established monitoring regime) or embedding pharmacists into GP practices, a move strongly supported by the AMA.


Pharmacist workloads

Pharmacists themselves already deal with unacceptable workloads, and being allowed to practice to the full scope might seem like an additional burden. However it’s a matter of choice. Some pharmacists will be more comfortable than others when it comes to diagnosing or prescribing, and that is entirely their choice. Simply, if you or your pharmacy are not trained or equipped, then you should not prescribe.

Practising to their full scope also presents an opportunity for a pharmacist to work outside the traditional four walls. Broadening of practice settings will result in more employment opportunities, and more importantly, go a long way to improving patient care and professional satisfaction.
Currently, pharmacy focuses on drugs for medical conditions with the patient as an afterthought. The industry needs to be patient centred profession and mimic all other health professions, and allowing pharmacists to practice to their full scope is positive first step in that direction.

For now though, let us take a moment to celebrate the profession and your contribution to the health of our communities.