You don’t need to fly interstate to see a paediatrician

You don’t need to fly interstate to see a paediatrician

WA families finally have some good news when it comes to the two plus year long waitlists for paediatricians for the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

A change to the prescribing code means that families can now use paediatricians located anywhere in Australia via telehealth, opening up availability and hopefully reducing wait times.

Families no longer need to fly interstate to see a paediatrician or to get ADHD medications.

What are the changes?

The WA Department of Health has made a change to the Schedule 8 Prescribing Code to allow certain interstate specialists to prescribe stimulant prescriptions to Western Australian patients by telehealth.

This includes paediatricians, psychiatrists or neurologists.  

Why the change?

You may remember that last year all paediatricians in WA had either closed their books for developmental or behavioural referrals such as ADHD, or they had waitlists of 2-3 years.

Families were flying interstate or using telehealth to see paediatricians out of desperation.

However, they then ran the gauntlet as to whether they could actually have the prescribed medication dispensed in WA. 

Technically, WA chemists could only dispense Schedule 8 medications to WA-patients who were prescribed these medications by a WA-based, registered stimulant prescriber.

The Department of Health advised that if families could find a chemist to dispense the medications in another state, they could legally post the medication to them in Western Australia.  

With Schedule 8 medications only allowed to be dispensed every 30 days, there was grave concern by families about the continuity to treatment for their children.

Never meant to be the policemen

The Department of Health has said they never meant for Pharmacists to have to police dispensing Schedule 8 medications.  

In late 2023, Pharmacists needed to check e-prescriptions to confirm that the prescribing paediatrician or specialist was a WA-based authorised stimulant prescriber.

While WA still requires them to be an approved prescriber, the Department of Health have said they will handle this from their end.

The Department will receive an alert about an e-script being dispensed in WA and if the paediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist is not already an authorised stimulant prescriber in WA, they will sort that out so they are.

This means that families can immediately access telehealth providers interstate without worrying about a hold up with red tape. 

It’s a win for families who now have more options when it comes to finding a treating specialist.  

Where is the detail of the change listed?

The Department of Health has posted the change to “Interstate stimulant prescriptions” here: Dispensing interstate prescriptions (health.wa.gov.au).

The change was made on 13 December 2023 and an official communication was to be made in January, but I haven’t seen anything yet and it’s mid March.  

But why stop there?

I know some people are wondering why the Department hasn’t made any further changes given how big an issue this is currently.

There has been a lot of advocacy for an increased role for GPs to work in collaboration with paediatricians and psychiatrists.

From what I’m told, it’s much easier to change the Prescribing Code than it is to change legislation.  This is covered in the Medicines and Poisons Act 2014 and the Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016. 

I have been told that these are being rewritten to allow for some changes in the future such as increasing the requirement for specialist review from a minimum or 12-monthly to three years. 

This would reduce some of the administrative burden currently placed on specialists who are often reviewing patients every six months, even when their medications and dosages are stable.

I hope there are more changes to come …

Who is providing telehealth appointments?

Not all paediatric practices provide telehealth services, with many requiring that patients visit their clinic.  

Here are some of the ones I have found that are taking telehealth bookings.

Go ahead and Google away and see what else you can find.  

And if you find more please let me know so I can pass the info onto other desperately searching families.