New ED wait times fuels scope hope

13 December 2023

New figures showing 44% of Australian patients in emergency departments waiting four hours or more to be seen to, has highlighted the need for health professionals including pharmacists to work to their full scope of practice, says the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

The data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows a deterioration in the number of people who have been seen to within four hours in emergency from 70% in 2018/19 to just 56% in 2022/23.

Pharmacy Guild National Vice President Anthony Tassone says the figures are a compelling reason to expedite pharmacists and other health professionals working to their full scope of practice.

“Pharmacists are widely acknowledged as the most accessible health professionals in the country,” Mr Tassone said.

“If we are enabled to work to our full scope of practice, we will be able to diagnose and treat more Australian patients, minimising the number of people who otherwise are unnecessarily clogging our emergency departments and GP surgeries.

Mr Tassone pointed to overseas examples where pharmacists do more for their patients than their Australian counterparts.

“In the UK for example, pharmacists and the government have reached a new agreement where they have widened their scope to treat and diagnose an additional seven health conditions.

“The benefits of this are projected to see an additional 2.1 million people going to their pharmacist each week instead of clogging up hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.

“In Canada, all but two provinces have implemented changes to enable pharmacists to treat and diagnose a range of everyday health conditions.

“Unfortunately, there is enough illness in Australia to keep all health professionals busy.

“We need to work smarter and not just harder for the benefits of our patients and free up doctors and emergency departments to treat patients with more complicated conditions,” Mr Tassone said.

Earlier this year respected accounting firm EY released a report into the health and economic benefits of pharmacists working to their full scope of practice.

It found pharmacists working to their full scope would see:

  • 279,000 less hospital days per year
  • 54,000 fewer ED hours per year
  • 5.4 million fewer GP consultations

The report also found that pharmacists working to their full scope would also save the Australian economy $5.1 billion each year.

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Page last updated on: 13 December 2023