Earlier this year PSA secured new funding to embed pharmacists in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs). The $345.7 million investment will not only revolutionise the way we care for Australia’s elderly, but will also provide pharmacists with an exciting new career path to consider, creating up to 1,500 pharmacist opportunities with staged uptake over 4 years.
The 2019 Medicine safety: take care report found that 98% of residents in RACFs have at least one medicine-related problem, and that over half are exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medicine. On top of this, one-fifth of aged care residents are on antipsychotics and more than half use the medicine for too long.
A win for medicine safety
The PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman says problems with medicine in aged care are clear. ‘The current system is not delivering its full impact, and new approaches are needed to improve medicine use in aged care.’
He says pharmacists are the key to improving the safety of older Australians. ‘The PSA has been advocating for funding to improve medicine safety in RACFs since 2018, following the establishment of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety – and now, almost 4 years later, we are finally seeing action.
‘As the custodians and experts of medication safety, enabling pharmacists to spend more time on site in aged care is the obvious solution to address the longstanding issues of polypharmacy and chemical restraint in aged care facilities.’
PSA’s model for aged care pharmacists
While the federal Health Department has not yet finalised how the program will work, PSA is strongly advocating for flexibility in the way aged care pharmacists can be employed.
PSA CEO Mark Kinsela says this will allow pharmacists in a range of different clinical settings to provide their expertise to aged care residents in the way that best suits them, and their local communities.
‘PSA is strongly advocating for a flexible funding model, that will allow RACFs to decide how they engage pharmacist services. Under this model, pharmacists could be contracted by an RACF as an independent consultant, through a community pharmacy, or via a third-party provider,’ he said.
‘This will allow pharmacists from a range of backgrounds to enter aged care facilities, but it will also support the implementation of the program while maintaining a consistent level of quality whether the facility is located in metropolitan centres or rural Australia.’
Closely mirroring the current HMR and RMMR payment model administered by the Pharmacy Programs Administrator (PPA) would allow for the greatest level of transparency and accountability around this funding and will help ensure that funding is securing on-site pharmacist services and not cross-subsidising other activities.
Under the current HMR/RMMR model pharmacists must be accredited (providing evidence to PPA of specific training and experience in medicines reviews) and provide evidence to PPA of a contract with an aged care facility to deliver these services.
‘Many community pharmacists may not have the capacity or desire to service aged care facilities on top of their existing workloads,’ Mr Kinsela said. It’s important there’s an option to act primarily as a supplying pharmacy who can then work collectively with the dedicated aged care pharmacist resource on site to improve medicine safety.’
Exciting opportunities for pharmacists
Incoming PSA National President Dr Fei Sim echoed her colleague’s support for flexibility in the program roll out, adding that she is excited for the new career path for pharmacists.
‘We’re hearing that more and more pharmacists want to be practicing to their full-scope,’ she said.
‘Going into an aged care facility as an on-site pharmacist will enable that career progression alongside advanced training.’
‘Accreditation will be a key part of developing the On-site Aged Care Pharmacist program, so there will be incredible opportunities to access mentoring and specialisations in geriatrics.’
Dr Sim said she is excited to build on PSA’s advocacy for on-site aged care pharmacists when she begins her term on 1 July. She thanked A/Prof Chris Freeman for his work on improving medicine safety across Australia.
What can you do now?
The program will begin rolling out in January 2023.
The PSA is here to support Australian pharmacists interested in working within the aged care sector.