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Pharmacist services expand in statewide pilot

Pharmacist services full scope of practice

The state government says it’s delivering on its promise to improve access to health care for more Victorians, with community pharmacists across Macedon able to provide treatment and advice for a range of common conditions as of earlier this week.

Premier Jacinta Allan and health minister Mary-Anne Thomas marked the start of a 12-month pilot to give Victorians more choice in accessing basic primary care, especially for people struggling to access an affordable or bulk-billing GP close to home.

Services include advice or treatment for women with uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) or resupply of their existing contraceptive pill without needing a prescription – with a broader public health vaccination offering, travel health consultations and treatment for mild skin conditions to roll out in coming weeks and months.

Part of a $20 million investment in the Victorian Budget 2023/24, around 400 pharmacies across the state have signed up for the pilot, with another 200 set to join the program in coming weeks. Pharmacies who have not yet joined are encouraged to still sign up, even as the pilot gets under way.

Importantly, Victorians won’t be charged for a pharmacy consultation for UTIs, mild skin conditions or a resupply of the contraceptive pill – pharmacies may charge a fee for a travel health consultation and vaccinations, while the cost of medication will remain the same as a prescription from a GP.

To be eligible to participate, all pharmacists are required to successfully complete mandatory training in the piloted services and demonstrate they are well equipped to know if someone should be referred to a GP or hospital. They must also prove they have the appropriate facilities within the pharmacy, like a private consulting room.

The pilot is being guided by expert advisory and clinical groups representing Victorians and the pharmacy and medical professions, including the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

At its conclusion, the pilot will be evaluated, and any recommendations will help inform longer-term decision-making around the role of community pharmacists.

Following a decade of inaction in primary care from successive Federal Liberal governments, it is harder than it has ever been to access a GP – let alone one who bulk bills.

Image by prostooleh on Freepik.

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