Docs ‘stuck in the past’: Guild


Doctors remain on the offensive as Guild congratulates WA’s Department of Health on its report

Doctor outrage has continued after the final report into the Review of Community Pharmacy Ownership in Western Australia dropped two weeks ago.

The report found that changes could be made to improve pharmacist utilisation, to include services such as providing additional vaccinations, health screening, chronic disease management, health promotion, and other medicines-related activities.

It also found pharmacists could offer a wider range of medication management reviews and related services in collaboration with GPs, and scope extension could include some models of prescribing.

The Australian Medical Association described the report as a “wish list for pharmacists who want to be doctors”.

“If they want to diagnose and treat illness properly then pharmacists should go to medical school,” AMA WA president Andrew Miller said.

“We do not go down to a shop to find out what the symptoms in our body might be causing. That is not appropriate.

“Pharmacists are not doctors, and to try to short-change patients by suggesting they can be is not going to be good for anybody’s health.”

Dr Miller has been continually tweeting on the topic for the past week.

Guild interim executive director Pam Price argues that the AMA are “stuck in the past” when it comes to the greater utilisation of pharmacists.

“Who could possibly say otherwise? Oh, right – the WA Branch of the AMA, who have screeched and bellowed that allowing pharmacists to make a bigger contribution to primary healthcare will turn them into ‘pseudo-GPs’,” she wrote in a Forefront editorial on Wednesday.

“Sadly, the AMA seems stuck in the past on this issue, patrolling the turf like an ageing gamekeeper, blunderbuss and megaphone at the ready.

“What we say to the AMA, and to the RACGP (who have been equally negative and shrill in their opposition to a trial of pharmacist prescribing in Queensland): recognise the potential patient benefit and convenience this represents within a safe framework, and work with pharmacists to ensure it is implemented in a collaborative and expeditious way. Put patients first.”

Ms Price says that for the most part, the report recommended changes that are logical extensions of existing pharmacy services that represent incremental extension of scope rather than any major shift.

“It is not about expanding the scope into new terrain, it is about making sure we use the existing scope recognised by regulators in Australia and overseas,” she said.

“This would be a major step forward for patient care and sensible use of the community asset that is represented by highly-trained pharmacists in the most accessible health infrastructure of all – community pharmacies.”

She said greater utilisation of pharmacists “will be within existing limits of pharmacists’ expertise” and “will always be conducted collaboratively with doctors and other health professionals”.

It will also relieve some of the stress on GP surgeries and emergency departments, Ms Price added.

Doctors in Queensland are also furious at the state’s upcoming pharmacist antibiotic dispensing trial.

Dr Bruce Willett, Queensland Chair of the RACGP, has called for the Queensland trial to be put on hold while national reviews around the level of antibiotics in the community are conducted.

“Introducing more and less experienced prescribers will only exacerbate the current challenges we have with overprescribing,” he said.

However PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman pointed out that pharmacists already make clinical assessments and diagnoses within their scope of practice, and prescribe lower-risk medicines.

“It is neither fair, nor professional of the RACGP to dismiss the vital role pharmacists play in our healthcare system,” Dr Freeman said.

The PSA has said it is ready to work with the Western Australian government to increase the scope of pharmacists.

PSA WA Branch President Dr Fei Sim said the WA report was a great step forward in acknowledging the vital role pharmacists play in Australia’s healthcare system, and their ability to do more to improve health outcomes.

“Community pharmacies are a valued and integral part of our communities’ health care,” she said.

“They can be found in most cities, towns and suburbs around Western Australia. Their location and accessibility, combined with the expertise and skills of pharmacists, makes them ideally suited to play a greater role in primary healthcare delivery.”

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