A new pilot program that will enable pharmacists to monitor chronic conditions and manage medications has drawn criticism from GP quarters

Edit: This story has been edited to remove out-of-date comments by Dr Tony Bartone from the AMA as quoted in The Age, and add some new comments from GPs on the current debate.

The 18-month Victorian trial, which opened up to expressions of interest this week, will allow pharmacists to renew prescriptions and make dose adjustments to medication in an effort to ease pressure on the healthcare system.

While the first trial of its kind, the Chronic Disease Management pilot program is part of an ongoing national push by pharmacy groups for pharmacists to work alongside GPs as part of a collaborative primary healthcare model.

“We applaud the new trial that will enable pharmacists to deliver primary care services to patients and help ease pressures on the health system, as well as meet the growing challenges of chronic disease in local communities,” said PSA National President Joe Demarte, who urged Victorian pharmacists to get involved.

Acting Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the move to engage pharmacists in primary care would take pressure off the healthcare system.

“We know that currently more than half of visits to GPs involve managing a chronic condition, rather than diagnosing new conditions,” she told The Age.

“Through this pilot, patients will be able to conveniently manage their chronic condition, in accordance with a GP’s care plan, at their local pharmacy, closer to home.”

The new proposal has drawn the ire of doctors who believe the move fragments rather than supports healthcare.

Readers of the Australian Doctor website have not responded positively to news of the pilot study, with some referring to the decision as “another nail in the coffin” for GPs and “pure madness”.

“This is dumbing general practice, fragmenting continuity of care,” one reader wrote.

“What a joke! A huge part of my GP work is forming a relationship with the patient and their family. This just fragments care!” said another.

The PSA points out that services pharmacists will offer under the pilot program, such as renewing prescriptions and making dose adjustments to medications, are within the current scope of practice for pharmacists.

“The Chronic Disease Management pilot program aligns with evidence-based practice and models of care that are working effectively internationally and we welcome the opportunity for pharmacists to participate in this trial with GPs,” Demarte said.

“International experience shows pharmacists in a general practice setting improve patient health and also strengthen links between local general practices and community pharmacies.”

Read follow-up article, ‘AMA: We support pharmacist chronic disease trial