The 2021 Intergenerational Report (IGR) presents a sobering long-term economic and fiscal outlook facing Australia as we try to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, the National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Trent Twomey, says.
Adjunct Professor Twomey said economic growth would not be as strong over the next 40 years as in the past because of slower population growth and ageing.
“Ageing population translates to reduced labour force participation, while productivity, which has been the traditional driver of prosperity, will need to pick up to offset the lack of population and participation growth,” e said.
“The Federal Budget will remain in deficit to 2060-61 and Federal Government health spending will continue to increase as a share of GDP from 4.1 per cent in 2018-19 to 6.2 per cent in 2060-61.
“Although projections for spending on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) are flat, medication unaffordability causing medication non-adherence, particularly for people with chronic conditions, requires further reforms to PBS co-payments.
“Technological changes and income growth will partly drive health spending while – as the population ages – there will be further demand for health services.”
The IGR acknowledged all levels of government had a role to play in boosting productivity by ensuring diversity, choice, and responsiveness in the delivery of government services.
“The way all governments can address the challenges in the IGR related to pressure on the health system, and productivity and participation more generally, is for every jurisdiction across Australia to unleash the skills of the most trusted health professionals – community pharmacists.
“This is both in the immediate term to administer COVID-19 vaccines but also in the medium to longer-term through regulatory reform to allow community pharmacists to practise to their full scope.
“Productivity of the health sector should be optimised by ensuring all healthcare professionals work to full scope of practice.
“Community pharmacists are not only a highly trained profession but are the most easily accessible, located in all regions of Australia and often operating for extended hours including evenings, weekends and public holidays.
“Utilised to its full scope of practice, community pharmacy can boost the productivity of the health sector and provide quality primary health care in a cost-effective way.
“Scope of practice entails many functions that pharmacists have training to do, and pharmacists can be used more effectively to support people with self-management of their health conditions, medication administration and review, management and continuation of treatments for long-term health conditions as well as ordering and interpreting laboratory tests.
“Policy and regulatory reform at all level of government to enable scope of practice will ensure savings to the health system materialise.”
Another important area that the IGR highlighted were the challenges associated with aged care.
Adjunct Professor Twomey said the IGR acknowledged the aged care reforms and funding announced as part of the recent Federal but also that the number of older Australians requiring aged care services would increase over the next 40 years.
“Overlooked so far in addressing the aged care challenges is that with prudent government investment, community pharmacists can be part of the solution,” he said.
“This includes medication management and adherence programs for older Australians wherever they live as well as in transitions of care.
“Overall, the IGR shows clearly the long-term challenges associated with an ageing population in the context of the immediate COVID-19 pandemic challenge.
“Part of the solution and response to these challenges is engaging and utilising the community pharmacy network to its full potential, to the betterment of the Australian population.”