Back to the drawing board for aged care pharmacists

The government will consult with the sector on the design of enhanced outreach medication management programs for aged care residents.

The federal government will undertake consultation with the sector on the design of enhanced outreach medication management programs for aged care residents, Australian Ageing Agenda understands.

This information follows an announcement made last week by Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler that the onsite pharmacists program would no longer be delivered by aged care facilities, but community pharmacies instead.

Mark Butler

During a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on 26 April – held to announce the government’s cheaper medicines policy – Mr Butler said: “In addition, I want to announce a change to a program that we inherited that was announced in the latter part of the former government’s tenure to improve medication compliance and medication reviews in residential aged care facilities.

“The policy announced by the former government would have had the program delivered through aged care facilities themselves. I am announcing today a change to that policy, so that the $350 million allocated in the budget for that measure will instead be delivered by and through community pharmacies.”

This is at odds with a previous announcement made by government in December last year that the $350 million would be directed to aged care providers so that “residential aged care homes can choose to employ or engage pharmacists to tailor medication management to best meet the residents’ and facility’s needs.”

That announcement followed consultation with the sector during which stakeholders were presented with two delivery models of the onsite pharmacy scheme – one that would see funding being provided directly to aged care homes or another that would see the money directed to Primary Health Networks.

Michael Bonner

Clinical pharmacist Michael Bonner – whose company Choice Aged Care provides professional services to the aged care sector – said the pivot toward a new delivery model has come as a complete surprise.

“At no stage in Mr Butler’s own department’s consultation paper was it presented to industry that a community pharmacy-based funding model was even a consideration,” Mr Bonner told AAA.

Meanwhile – before releasing a press release to other media outlets – CEO of the Aged & Community Care Providers Association Tom Symondson told AAA he was also surprised at the government’s decision to relocate the onsite pharmacy funding.

“The federal government’s decision to overturn a commitment to provide $345.7 million over four years to fund the embedding of an accredited pharmacist in residential aged care homes is as disappointing as it is surprising.”

He added: “Regular reviews of medication for residents and access to onsite advice is critical to ensuring the types of medication prescribed and dosages remain relevant. This ensures quality and consistency of standards of the review.”

Tom Symondson

Whilst acknowledging that medicines have beneficial effects which can improve health and wellbeing, Mr Symondson told AAA some may also have harmful consequences.

“An accredited pharmacist onsite can review medication where a resident has had unintended effects to ensure dosages are administered correctly.”

The $350-million onsite pharmacy program was confirmed in the last federal budget and responds to recommendations from the aged care royal commission.

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Tags: featured, mark butler, michael bonner, onsite, pharmacists,

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