Illawarra pharmacists are ready to provide a higher level of service including vaccinations if the government acts on the recommendations of a new report.
Illawarra Pharmacist Association spokesman Tim Hewitt yesterday welcomed the Grattan Institute report, which outlined the need for pharmacists to take on a greater role in primary healthcare to help ease GP shortages.
Mr Hewitt said pharmacists were ready to take on expanded roles such as vaccinations, the approval of repeat prescriptions and a greater involvement in chronic disease management.
"Vaccination by pharmacists is quite common in other countries, and is in the pipeline in Australia," he said.
"Some pharmacy university training courses already train students to vaccinate, and many other pharmacists have completed vaccination training already.
"Government red tape is all that is holding up public access to pharmacist vaccinations."
Mr Hewitt, a member of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, said the Grattan Institute report was the first of its kind to acknowledge the need for an expanded professional role for pharmacies.
"Pharmacists already perform a support role for GPs in as much as their advice is constantly sought by the public regarding health, symptoms and treatment," he said.
The report, Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia, argues that an investment of about $30 million a year would go a long way towards solving Australia's worst shortages. The funds would support a greater role for pharmacists as well as the introduction of a new health worker, the physician assistant, to expand care in rural and remote areas hardest hit by GP shortages.
These included the Southern NSW Medicare Local region, which takes in Moruya, Bega and Goulburn.
"People in rural areas with low access to GPs are more likely to have serious health risks," Grattan Institute health program director Stephen Duckett said.
"If they can't get care, it will cost them, and the taxpayer, much more in the long run.
"Pharmacists and physician assistants could take on some of the less complex tasks performed by GPs, without compromising quality and safety.
"That would save money and free up GPs to do the complex work they are trained for."
Mr Hewitt said pharmacists around the country urged both levels of government to give the report "serious consideration".