Funding to embed pharmacists in aged care

Australia’s pharmacists are set to play a more active role in managing medications in the country’s residential aged care facilities.

From next year, Australia’s pharmacists will play an even more active role in dispensing medicines within the country’s residential aged care facilities.

Ahead of tomorrow’s Budget, the Federal Government has announced it has earmarked $345.7 million over four years to embed pharmacists in aged care homes.

Under the measure, every government funded residential aged care facility will be able to employ or engage an on-site pharmacist or community pharmacy services from 1 January 2023.

ACT provider Goodwin Aged Care pioneered an embedded pharmcist role in Australian aged care homes following a successful pilot. Since then others including the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the University of Canberra and a collaboration of universities in four states have launched pilots or trials.

Associate Professor Chrs Freeman

PSA national president Associate Professor Chris Freeman said the announcement had been long-awaited. “This is a win for those residents who will now have greater access to medicines experts, our pharmacists, and I have no doubt that this sentiment will be shared by the aged care sector.”

PSA has been advocating for funding to implement the recommendations of the royal commission to improve medicine safety in residential aged care facilities.

Those recommendations included:

  • allowing and funding pharmacists to conduct reviews on entry to residential care and annually thereafter, or more often if there has been a significant change to the person receiving care’s condition or medication regimen
  • amending the criteria for eligibility for residential medication management reviews to include people in residential respite care and transition care
  • monitoring quality and consistency of medication management reviews.

The royal commission into aged care also detailed long-standing issues such as the overuse of psychotropic medicines. “And since then, troubling data on medication misadventure has continued to emerge,” said Associate Professor Freeman.

“With more than 19,000 Australians in residential aged care prescribed antipsychotics with no indication, the level of chemical restraint must be addressed.”

In 2020, the PSA released a report into medicine safety in aged care.

Among the findings:

  • over 95 per cent of aged care residents have at least one problem with their medicines detected at the time of a medicines review; most have three problems
  • 50 per cent of people with dementia are taking medicines with anticholinergic properties, which can worsen confusion and other symptoms of dementia.
  • one-fifth of aged care residents are on antipsychotics; more than half use the medicine for too long.

The evidence is clear, said Associate Professor Freeman: “Pharmacists need to be an embedded part of the aged care equation if medication misadventure is to be minimised and rectified.”

Announcing the initiative, Minister for Aged Care Greg Hunt said: “Embedded pharmacy within aged care … will make a difference to saving lives, and protecting lives, and improving lives in aged care.”

He said the implementation of the program would be co-designed with the Pharmacy Guild, PSA and the aged care sector over the next six months.

Associate Professor Freeman said some residential aged care providers may choose to contract pharmacists through community pharmacies while others may choose to employ a pharmacist directly, or via a third party.

“It is crucial that aged care service providers are allowed the flexibility to determine how they secure pharmacist services,” he said. “It can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach as every facility is different.”

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Tags: Associate Professor Chris Freeman, budget 2022, embedded pharmacist, featured, goodwin-aged-care, greg hunt, pharmaceutical-society-of-Australia,

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