Pharmacists should be exempted from mandatory reporting requirements, says the PSA
PSA made a submission to the COAG Health Council in which it urges the body to adopt Western Australia’s model of mandatory reporting provisions for pharmacists seeking treatment for mental health and stress-related conditions.
PSA says in the submission that mandatory reporting obligations “have the unintended consequence of deterring practitioners from seeking treatment for their own health conditions”.
It wants all health professionals to become exempt from the requirements.
The latest data from the Australian National Coronial Information System shows doctors and other health workers have the highest suicide rate among Australia’s white-collar workforce. Between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2014, 153 health professionals died as a result of suicide.
The PSA cites the National Stress and Wellbeing Survey of Pharmacists, Intern Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students, which found that 33% of pharmacists surveyed identified “impact on registration and right to practice” as a barrier to seeking help.
The survey also showed that pharmacists experienced similar stress as doctors and other health professionals.
“This lack of access to treatment due to concerns over mandatory reporting may potentially have a significant negative impact on both the individual practitioner and public safety,” the submission says.
To achieve a nationally consistent approach, COAG’s consultation paper has proposed four options, including the adoption of the WA model (Option 2), which exempts treating practitioners from mandatory reporting requirements.
“PSA strongly supports access to healthcare for health professionals balanced with public safety,” says PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson.
“Pharmacists should be able to seek treatment for health issues confidentially without fear that their professional careers will be at risk. That’s why PSA recommends that the COAG Health Council progress Option 2, as outlined in the discussion paper.
“We are concerned that fear of mandatory reporting may reduce access to necessary healthcare for vulnerable health practitioners,” Dr Jackson says.
Dr Jackson says Australia’s pharmacy profession has robust codes, standards and guidelines for ethical and professional practice, including PSA’s Code of Ethics, Professional Practice Standards and the Pharmacy Board of Australia’s Code of Conduct for Pharmacists.
“Therefore PSA believes that pharmacists in Australia are well equipped to exercise professional judgement and meet their professional and ethical obligations to report a serious risk of harm,” Dr Jackson says.
Read the full submission here.
Pharmacists needing support can access the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910.