‘General practice does not upsell its patients.’

doctor wearing boxing glove

The AMA’s president has slammed a recent article by NSW Guild president David Heffernan as “a cynical attempt to bolster the retail presence of Guild members, regardless of the impact on healthcare”

Mr Heffernan wrote in his bulletin recently that out-of-pocket costs for many patients is a growing issue – and queried whether they need to see a doctor, taking a swing at what he called “five-minute medicine”.

He said that pharmacists should be able to practise fully in the minor ailment space in order to reduce pressure on GPs and emergency departments.

The article, after being picked up by a doctor publication, attracted significant backlash from doctors including RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon, who published a piece provocatively titled “Do they teach perfume dispensing in pharmacy school?”

Now AMA president Dr Tony Bartone has waded into the debate, writing in another doctor publication, Medical Observer, that Mr Heffernan’s article contained “patently incorrect claims about general practice, a confused perspective on Medicare funding, and a one-dimensional understanding of healthcare in general”.

“I was not surprised to see that the source for the article was a senior member of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia,” Dr Bartone writes in a piece titled “Why more pharmacy visits aren’t good for patients or the health system”.

“Despite the outstanding contribution general practice continues to make to Australian health, this poorly informed article attacked GPs in what can only be described as a cynical attempt to bolster the retail presence of guild members, regardless of the impact on healthcare.”

He writes that general practice has been “underfunded for a decade or more” and that GPs are calling for more support to provide services such as a care co-ordination program for people with chronic diseases, through a quarterly payment to GPs.

Recent reports that 7% of Australians have delayed buying medicines, or not bought them at all, show that “pharmacy has problems of its own that it must address”.

“And let’s not forget the booming complementary medicines industry which is now worth $4.9 billion; much of this now sold over the counter in pharmacies.

“If Australians have to spend money on their health, the AMA wants them to spend it on medicines and therapies that are supported by evidence, and that work.

“General practice does not upsell its patients. It identifies an illness, it manages it with the patient, and it leverages relationships with patients to discuss difficult topics during routine encounters.

“Simplistic proposals that encourage patients to visit pharmacists instead are a poor option for patients. It fragments care and an opportunity for early intervention is lost, which ultimately costs the health system more.”

Dr Bartone also says that doctors and pharmacists on the ground have good working relationships, and that collaboration is key in patient care.

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  1. pagophilus

    But General Practice spends too little time with patients and then charges them too much for the privilege, and then when they can’t get an appointment in time they charge per script. And don’t get me started on how much specialists charge and whether that is justifiable.

  2. Angus Thompson

    This ongoing ‘lobbing of grenades’ between senior people in some of the medical and pharmacy organisations, is quite pathetic and not becoming of health professionals who should share a common goal of doing what is the patient’s best interest. The use of carefully chosen examples to have a dig at the ‘opposition’ is quite ironic when the thrust of some of the arguments made is around ‘evidence’. Any one with any integrity and honesty on either side should be able to admit there are problems in their respective camps. As it stands, these representatives of the AMA, PGA and RACGP are behaving like a parent who will not admit their ‘even their child’ sometimes behaves badly!

  3. Bruce ANNABEL

    This subject is a fascinating one that’s been bubbling along for a long time. I am disappointed the ‘discussion’ has got to this point because all the pharmacy clients I interact with have wonderful collaborative relationships with their local GPs working as partners in the patient’s interests. However not all pharmacies operate like this mainly because of inertia justified by choosing to take a position of criticizing GPs often without foundation. Some who I managed to motivate found GPs more than willing to collaborate with them and you only have to read the current issue of AJP for an example. Glengarry Pharmacy 777 has done this incredibly well and very professionally with outstanding results. You won’t find a bottle of fragrance/perfume or cosmetic in that pharmacy!

  4. Peter McGregor

    Well, apart from the GP that recently tried to upsell bexsero to my children during their scheduled immunisation visit…

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