Time for debate on maximising pharmacists’ role in improving consumer health outcomes

Pharmacists, doctors and other health professionals need a serious and objective discussion on the future role of pharmacists in the health system, the Acting National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Joe Demarte, said today.
Mr Demarte was responding to calls by the AMA President, Associate Professor Brian Owler, for the Government to immediately rule out any arrangement to fund pharmacists to provide health checks, particularly for minor ailments.

“This position by the AMA must acknowledge that the community has invested heavily in developing wide-ranging skills in pharmacists but we are not fully utilising those skills to improve the health outcomes of people in the community,” Mr Demarte said.

“Pharmacists as part of their core practice have been dealing with minor ailments for decades, and this has relieved pressure on GPs.

“GPs are under great strain at the moment and many patients can wait days or even weeks for an appointment with their doctor, while pharmacists who have the skills and knowledge to help are not being utilised.”

Mr Demarte said it was simplistic to dismiss the suggestion that pharmacists play a greater role in the health system as a turf war between doctors and the pharmacy profession.

“What we need is mature and evidence-informed discussion about maximising the potential of pharmacists to work with doctors and other health practitioners to meet consumer health needs, relieve the strains on the health budget and improve the health outcomes of consumers,” Mr Demarte said.

“Pharmacists are very knowledgeable health experts whose expertise can add value to the health system and we need to ensure that we use those skills to the best benefits of patients and the health system in general. There’s a plethora of evidence on the role of pharmacists improving consumer health, but in comparison to many other countries, much of this evidence hasn’t been converted to reality. This is at the expense of patient health.

“Pharmacists do not want to take over the role of doctors, and to reduce discussion about our future role to that level is a disservice to doctors, pharmacists and the Australian public.

“PSA looks forward to working with our colleagues in the medical profession and the Government to further discuss this important issue.”


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