Doctors versus Pharmacists – Budget season hots up

With the Federal Budget process in full swing, we highlight some of the things being called for by other major advocacy organisations.

This week we look at the health sector where the Doctors and Pharmacists have each put forward their wish lists to the Treasurer.

Preventative health funding boost – AMA Budget plea

A health system in “turmoil”, chronic under-resourcing, and operating “beyond capacity.” That is the dire prognosis of our health system by the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

In its 2020-21 Federal Budget submission, the AMA warns of “crisis” in General Practice, public hospitals, private health insurance, aged care, and mental health.

President, Dr Tony Bartone said the cause was a decade of Federal Government under-funding.

“We are at the tipping point. We cannot hide from the facts anymore.”

The solution? Lift spending from its current level of 9.3 per cent to a level in line with comparable countries to fund a renewed focus on preventive health.

Here’s what they have called for:

General Practice

It is the cornerstone of our health system and the AMA wants it built up and properly supported to underpin and coordinate service provision across the whole health system.


Hospitals are underfunded and operating beyond capacity.

Health insurance

Despite recent reforms, it still lacks value, affordability, and the confidence and trust of consumers.

Aged care

The ongoing royal commission has found that aged care “is in turmoil” and needs significant investment, as well as a “huge injection of care and compassion.”

Mental health

Services must be better connected and coordinated, with a heightened role for GPs. This will require extra and more strategically-targeted funding.

Preventative health

Australians need to be fitter and make better lifestyle choices to keep themselves healthier and out of hospital. This needs funding and a coordinated approach from all levels of government.

Indigenous and rural health

This lags well behind that of non-Indigenous and non-rural Australians.

Download the AMA Pre-Budget Submission here.

Pharmacists prescribe ‘political pills’ for health future

Remember the neighbourhood chemist who bottled up the tablets and lent a kindly ear to all sorts of ailments? Well, they’re now showing muscle and want a bigger slice of the medical world.

Industry group, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), is campaigning to play a bigger role in the delivery of health services and advising government on health policy.

The PSA has put forward the following health programs, which it says addresses current serious health service gaps:

Aged care

More than half of aged care residents are exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medicine. The PSA wants nearly $9 million for a Medicine Safety in Aged Care Resources and Support program to stop the inappropriate use of psychotropic and other medicines in aged care facilities.

Rural and remote communities

Country people turn to their pharmacists for medical advice and the PSA points to the recent bushfires as evidence of the need to provide support and improve access to pharmacists and hospitals, especially during emergencies.

The PSA have proposed a Rural Pharmacy Enhanced Services Program to help keep pharmacists in the bush and support delivery of services such as smoking cessation, chronic disease management, health screening, wound care and mental health triage and referral.

Opioid medicines

Between 2007 and 2016, the rate of opioid deaths rose by 62 per cent. In 2016-17, 15.4 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to 3.1 million Australians.

The PSA proposes a collaborative opioid stewardship program to help pharmacists improve, monitor and evaluate opioid use and increase the safety of pain management.

Primary care expansion

Pharmacists want to play a bigger role in general health practice by providing advice and education on medicine safety and quality use of medicines. They want to help reduce the risk of medicine problems as patients transition between care providers.

Chief Pharmacist

The PSA also proposes establishing the role of Chief Pharmacist within the Australian Government Department of Health. The Chief Pharmacist would provide direction and high-level advice on all pharmacy and medicines issues and complement the work of the Chief Medical Officer.

Have you read our Federal Budget submission?

We handed our submission to the Treasurer in late 2019 so that the Federal Government would have plenty of time to consider our recommendations.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our submission. Your feedback is vital to shaping our policy and helping us fight for the rights of all older Australians.

If you haven’t already done so, please download our Federal Budget submission below.

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