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Medicine safety now a national priority


The federal and state health ministers have made medicine safety a national priority in the wake of the aged care royal commission’s interim findings. 

The measure has been welcomed by the peak body for pharmacists but questions have been raised over whether it will reduce the significant over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care identified by the aged care royal commissioners in their interim report released on Thursday.

Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs found there was “no reason to delay action” and said early action by the Government in their negotiations on the seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement may partly correct the prolonged use of chemical restraint (read more here).

Co-signatories The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Pharmaceutical Society of Australia have provided their support to the commissioners’ recommendations to review the effectiveness of the Residential Medication Management Review, but the government has not (read more here).

On Friday, Commonwealth Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced the Morrison Government responded immediately to the royal commission’s findings by delivering a united agreement from health ministers to deliver better management of medication in aged care.

The state and territory health ministers agreed to recognise Quality Use of Medicine and Medicine Safety as the 10th National Health Priority.

Mr Hunt said he welcomed the ministers’ cooperation to improve the management of medicines and in particular their use in residential aged care.

“I have commissioned a national baseline report on Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety that will inform new best practice models, new national standards and better medication management

“Health Ministers agreed that it was essential to improve medication management for those in aged care as well as medicines safety in hospital and the community,” Mr Hunt said.

Pharmacists welcome agreement

The peak national professional organisation representing all pharmacists commended the decision by the nation’s health ministers for making medicine safety a national priority.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia national president Associate Professor Chris Freeman also commended the ministers for commissioning the baseline report to identify the prevalence of harm and collect evidence of use and misuse of medicines.

“But it must not stop there. There needs to be meaningful commitment from all parties involved in healthcare delivery, including health professionals, peak organisations, and government to reduce harm from medicines use,” Associate Professor Freeman said.

He said PSA’s Medicine Safety: Take Care report was the catalyst for this announcement.

The report found that every year 250,000 Australians were hospitalised and a further 400,000 presented to emergency departments as a result of medication errors, inappropriate use, misadventure and interactions.

Associate Professor Chris Freeman said pharmacists were medicines experts.

“They must to be supported to spend more time – both in the community pharmacy setting and other parts of the health care system, including aged care facilities – reviewing patients’ medications, providing advice to members of the health care team, and educating consumers about medicine safety.”

Expert questions impact of measure on restraint

Dr Juanita Breen, who led University of Tasmania’s successful Reducing Use of Sedatives program in residential aged care, said this response demonstrated a lack of understanding on the issues of chemical restraint.

She said she doubted making medication safety a national priority would reduce the overuse of chemical restraint.

Dr Juanita Breen

“Dementia was made a health priority in 2012 and there have been so many instances of poor dementia care even highlighted in this report so I don’t know how this will address chemical restraint,” Dr Breen told Australian Ageing Agenda.

She also questioned whether another report on medication safety was needed to establish standards.

“There have been two recently released standards from the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia and another big report from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia,” Dr Breen said.

“Do we need another report? Won’t that delay action?”

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