Reason Aussies ditching their doctors

Close-up of young woman's hand holding birth control pills
This comes as the state is looking to expand a trial to allow residents to go to their local pharmacist and bypass their GP for treatment of certain ailments. Picture: iStock

More than 12,000 GP visits to obtain basic medications have been diverted to pharmacists, potentially saving NSW residents nearly half a million dollars in costs.

Since May 2023, people in NSW have been able to access basic medication at their local pharmacies for urinary tract infections (UTIs) and since September, the oral contraceptive pill, with about 1200 pharmacists across the state participating in the trial.

With the average cost of a non-bulk billing GP consult costing $40, this means people have saved $480,000 in out-of-pocket gap fees.

The reforms have allowed pharmacists to conduct 11,296 consultations for UTIs, and 854 consultations for the contraceptive pill. Initially just under 100 pharmacies were involved in the trial, however the program is now slated to expand to about 1200 businesses, surpassing initial expectation of 1000.

Close-up of young woman's hand holding birth control pills
Since September of last year, women between 18 to 35 who have been on the contraceptive pill for two years have been able to get the medication from their pharmacist, instead of renewing their script at the GP. Picture: iStock

The government is also poised to allow pharmacists to prescribe treatment for impetigo (a highly infectious skin infection also known as school sores), and shingles from about mid-April, with the government expected to formally announce a date shortly.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said participation in the pharmacy trial was going “better than expected,” especially as securing a GP appointment was becoming increasingly difficult.

Research from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) forecasts Australia will be facing a GP shortage of more than 10,600 doctors by 2031, despite demand for services increasing by 58 per cent between 2009 to 2019.

“Empowering pharmacists to safely prescribe and dispense basic everyday medications will save people time as well as relieve pressure on our GPs,” he said.

“We want to ensure this is done safely, and we are determined to get it right.

“We are constantly assessing how we can deliver health care more efficiently as well as safely, and I am excited about the opportunities to expand this initiative elsewhere.”

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said the pharmacy roll out would relieve pressure on already overburdened GPs. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Christian Gilles

Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s NSW president David Heffernan said upskilling pharmacists ensured everyday healthcare was made more affordable and accessible.

“With pharmacists working closer to their full scope of practice, 12,000 patients across the state have already accessed treatment at their local community pharmacy. This takes pressure off of hospital emergency departments and GPs,” he said.

“Rather than having to wait weeks to see a GP for everyday healthcare, patients across the state have been able to get treatment from their local pharmacy thanks to these reforms.”