Pharmacy Guild scope-of-practice push continues

Matt Woodley

23/08/2019 4:11:02 PM

The calls, found in a submission to the National Rural Health Commissioner, include the ability to prescribe medicines and administer more vaccines.

Rural Australia.
The Pharmacy Guild says expanding scope of practice will improve healthcare access in rural areas.

The document describes the proposed major changes as supporting pharmacists to ‘work to full scope of practice’.
‘The benefits of pharmacists practising to their full scope is most pronounced in rural and regional communities where access to health professionals and health outcomes are lower,’ the document states.
‘Pharmacy is well placed to assist because of the better geographic spread of pharmacists across regional Australia when compared to other health professionals.’
This follows the Pharmacy Guild’s recently published policy paper, which advocates allowing pharmacists to treat ‘common ailments’ as a way to increase access and potentially save ‘billions’ in health costs.
However, Chair of RACGP Rural, Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda told newsGP rural communities deserve better. He believes more investment in the National Rural Generalist Pathway will help resolve maldistribution issues by encouraging more GPs to work in rural areas.
‘Every rural Australian deserves to have high-quality healthcare,’ he said.
‘I agree there should be different models of care, but they have to be measured and evidence based. Pharmacy prescribing is not a good idea to address what is a complex problem.’
Aside from saving money, the Pharmacy Guild’s national president George Tambassis recently claimed expanding pharmacy’s scope of practice would also help alleviate what he describes as a looming GP shortage stemming from the Visas for GPs initiative, which he believes will leave patients worse off.
‘Allowing pharmacists to work more closely with GPs to treat common ailments will free up doctors to spend more time with their patients and treating complex issues,’ he told AJP.
‘Particularly in regional and outer-suburban areas, which will be worst affected by growing GP shortages, it makes sense to allow pharmacists to offer more health services to meet the needs of their communities.’
But while the Pharmacy Guild supports autonomous prescribing rights for pharmacists in order to improve healthcare access for patients, this does not extend to the dispensing of medicines by other health professionals outside of pharmacy.
‘The Guild is concerned about the suggestion that dispensing of medicines could occur as an “extended community medication role”, either by other health professionals, or outside the pharmacy,’ the Pharmacy Guild’s National Rural Health Commissioner submission states.
‘Review of these programs have shown these schemes fall below average standards for patient education and consumer medicine information.’
Associate Professor Shenouda said the new restrictions on visas for international medical graduates should not impact access in rural areas and with enough investment, could actually lead to better outcomes for patients.
‘The problem we have in Australia is maldistribution, not the number of doctors,’ he said.
‘We need to think of ways of addressing this, rather than forever depending on overseas-trained doctors who are sometimes put in a vulnerable position and have to deal with high risk issues.
‘People who have trained in Australia are more equipped to be able to go into those areas.’

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Dr David Zhi Qiang Yu   27/08/2019 9:37:44 PM

I do not agree that the pharmacists in rural and regional communities to prescribe medicines and administer more vaccines, since it will compromise the high quality of care provided from GPs in those areas.