Aged care royal commission welcomed by pharmacist sector

Following distressing reports of inappropriate medicine use in aged care homes, PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson has welcomed a royal commission into the aged care sector.

Announced earlier this week following revelations of poor treatment of older people in care by ABC’s Four Corners, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is expected to investigate quality of care in private and government-run aged care facilities following the exposure of cases of neglect, elder abuse and other concerns.

‘Inappropriate use of medication in aged care has been a concern for many years,’ Dr Jackson said.

‘We’ve seen reports that indicate over 50% of residents in some aged care facilities are receiving sedative type medications, have suboptimal pain control, and are taking medications that are no longer necessary. Crushing of medications puts residents at greater risk of side effects, including falls.’

On Monday night, Four Corners screened the first of a two-part investigation into the treatment of older Australians in aged care homes, including examples of inappropriate medicines use.

‘These reports are particularly distressing to our members,’ Dr Jackson said.

‘Pharmacists are a key group of health professionals who understand how much medicine safety and quality directly impacts the health and wellbeing of vulnerable residents in aged care facilities – both negatively and positively.

‘Better co-ordination and greater investment in healthcare professionals like pharmacists needs to be built into the operation and design of aged care facilities.’

Dr Jackson said research shows positive health outcomes are delivered in models where pharmacists and pharmacy services are embedded and integrated within aged care facilities.

‘These pharmacists support doctors in making the right decisions about the use of medications, guide nurses in the correct administration of medications, and regularly review medications residents are taking,’ he said.

‘Unfortunately, what we see in practice is that all too often they are not there, and it is our aged care residents who pay the price.’

Senior Australians and Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said he was absolutely appalled by the lack of care shown for some of Australia’s most vulnerable citizens.

‘[The royal commission] will look at the aged sector as a whole – without bias or prejudice. It will make findings on the evidence, and as a Government, and a Parliament, it will be our job to act on these findings together,’ he said.

‘I think we have to prepare ourselves for the royal commission to uncover some pretty bruising information about the way our loved ones have been mistreated.’

Read Australian Pharmacist’s recent feature on models of care in the aged care sector here.