Health Consumers Tasmania want doctors and pharmacists working together – not at war | Op-Ed, Mercury Newspaper, 17/04/2023

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Health Consumers Tasmania want doctors and pharmacists working together – not at war


The current turf war between health industry groups, particularly between doctors and pharmacists, must stop. Despite what they say, their long-lasting public row is unedifying, self-serving and has nothing to do with what consumers want.

These groups argue about who should prescribe what medications, where people can go for vaccinations and whether people can purchase ongoing scripted medications beyond one month at a time. The reality is consumers are happy for pharmacists to prescribe some medications and provide vaccinations and many people become really frustrated when they are forced to organise return trips to the pharmacy each and every month when they could collect multiple scripts at once, saving them effort, cost and time.

This ongoing and tiresome argument demonstrates that industry has lost sight of key fundamentals – that it is there to serve the community by providing equitable access to timely healthcare.

If we can’t even manage these simple, straightforward reforms to primary healthcare, how on earth can industry tackle the bigger changes that are required and community demand.

Tasmanians no longer want a piecemeal approach to ‘fixing’ health and they understand that more of the same no longer works. Health Consumers Tasmania has evidence that some Tasmanians are already desperately seeking healthcare support through any means possible because, and not blaming GPs, but GP’s can no longer cope with the bottleneck that is occurring at their front door.

Tasmanians are telling us that the reach of general practice no longer suits our states decentralised population, and therefore innovative solutions are required to fill this gap. This could include expanding the frontline primary care workforce to include pharmacies, nurse practitioners, community nurses, peer workers, allied health, and an expanded telehealth service.

What is missing and desperately needed is building more entry points for consumers into the health system. A fundamental rethink on how we deliver primary care including new multidisciplinary care support that includes nursing and allied health and new funding models that move away from transactional primary care to chronic condition management and coordinated care is required. Tasmanians want continuity of care rather than the increased use of locums. Hence, the corporatisation of primary care is not popular, and it is occurring at the expense of consumer centred care.

We need new thinking and the establishment of new roles or functions within healthcare to help people into the system and then navigate their way through it. We need to rethink how we keep communities well and ensuring that all Australians have access to a free health and wellbeing checks as a central component of the national health reform agenda.

The state governments recent announcements to pilot single-employer GP training model, allowing more vaccinations to occur in pharmacies and funding seven GP after hour clinics, all very welcome news, shows that whilst industry continues to argue about reform, some changes are already happening.

Sadly, these arguments result is an industry spluttering in first gear whilst the community race on, leaving their trust in once loved professions behind.