17 July 2018

Pharmacists and GPs will be given advanced training to better identify patients on medication who could be a danger on our roads.

The move is one of several road safety measures announced today by the NSW Government following a review into driver safety.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said $760,000 will be invested in training over the next three years to support health professionals.

“NSW Health has partnered with the University of Sydney to provide in-depth training to health professionals that focuses on assessing driver safety,” Dr Chant said.

“Road safety is a shared responsibility and as a health system, part of our duty of care and professional practice is to ensure public safety.”

Dr Chant said while preliminary data for 2017 reveals the factors causing road fatalities are mostly speeding (contributed to 167 incidents), fatigue (contributed to 75 incidents) and alcohol (contributed to 55 incidents), drivers also need to understand the risk of driving while impaired by medicines.

“Prescription and non-prescription medications can impair the ability to drive safely, particularly when mixed with alcohol and we are developing new resources to help patients better understand this,” Dr Chant said.

“Data from 2013 to 2015 show that drugs other than alcohol were detected in association with motor vehicle fatalities. Psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants were the most commonly detected, followed by hallucinogens such as cannabis. Opioids were detected on just seven occasions.”

NSW Health has reviewed the guidelines for the Opioid Treatment Program and is also conducting a safety audit of the program that focuses on current practices around fitness to drive, takeaway dosing, concurrent use of other prescribed medication, and communication with clients and pharmacies.

Any learnings from the review will be implemented over the coming months.

The 2018-19 Budget commits $225 million to alcohol and other drug health-related services. The Government will invest more than $850 million over four years for drug and alcohol treatment services in NSW.