Pharmacist role critical in aged care

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During final submissions at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, counsel has proposed a number of recommendations that, if adopted, will improve safety for older Australians – including recommending that pharmacists be embedded within all aged care facilities across Australia.

These recommendations are strongly backed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), with PSA National President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman saying that pharmacists are critical in ensuring the safety and quality use of medicines in aged care.

“Counsel assisting has recognised the vital of pharmacists in tackling the problems of overuse of opioids, chemical restraints and inappropriate use of antibiotics,” says Associate Professor Freeman.

“PSA is pleased counsel assisting has adopted our recommendation for pharmacists to have a greater role in aged care and be embedded in these environments.

“We maintain pharmacists need to be able to spend more time on the ground in aged care, to be able to protect residents when it comes to the safe and effective use of medicines.”

Associate Professor Freeman adds that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Royal Commission’s interim report “has already recognised the urgent need to address the critical safety failures in aged care”.

“Our Medicine Safety: Aged Care report reveals that more than 95% of people living in aged care facilities have at least one problem with their medicine and most have three,” he says.

“Many of these problems are very serious and potentially catastrophic.

“For too long pharmacists have felt powerless that the system has not supported them in addressing these problems.

“If adopted, these recommendations would provide real hope that our older and vulnerable Australians will receive safer care.”

Pharmacists can make a ‘meaningful difference’

Associate Professor Freeman says that while currently comprehensive indicators on the safe and quality use of medicines currently do not exist, “public reporting and measurement of this data is necessary to improve medicine safety”.

“We know that when pharmacists spend more time on the ground in aged care, they can make a meaningful difference to how medicines are prescribed and administered to improve safety for all residents over time,” he says.

Dedicated research council needed

Given that, according to Associate Professor Freeman, “until now research into aged care has been ad-hoc and small-scale”, PSA also welcomes the proposed establishment of a dedicated research council to conduct research into effective programs to improve the use of medicines in aged care.

“This will provide a better opportunity to develop the evidence base for best practice models of care that will improve medicine safety for older Australians,” he says.

“Australians now know just how devastating medicine safety problems are among our aged care residents.

“They deserve action. Adopting these recommendations will begin to fundamentally shift aged care in a direction that finally makes medicines safer for all.”

PSA’s submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety can be found at my.psa.org.au/s/article/Aged-Care-Quality-and-Safety

PSA’s Medicine Safety: Aged Care report can be found at psa.org.au/advocacy/working-for-our-profession/medicine-safety/aged-care/