An AJP poll reveals most readers are supportive of pharmacists in general practice, with a few expressing concerns – but the PSA says it will be addressing these

Pharmacists embedded into general practice present a potential new career path for the profession in Australia, as uptake continues across the country.

Earlier this year in Victoria, a new PSA program was rolled out with pharmacists integrated into four general practices in Melbourne.

Additionally the 2018-19 Federal Budget made a provision for a new Workforce Incentive Program, which will support general practices to engage allied health professionals including non-dispensing pharmacists, from 1 July 2019.

An AJP poll of 529 respondents* found that most see the initiative as a positive move for the profession.

According to the poll results, the majority of respondents (62% – 323 votes) believe pharmacists in general practice will see pharmacists gain more respect and recognition for being medicines experts.

Sixty percent believe the pathway will foster collaboration between health professionals (317 votes), and more than half think it will help both patients (58%) and GPs (55%) better understand medicines.

A similar amount (59%) think it will provide a new career path for pharmacists, and will help improve Quality Use of Medicines (57%).

PSA says the results seem positive and reflect research that has been done with stakeholders.

“On the whole, I think the profession will broadly see this as a good opportunity,” says PSA vice president Chris Freeman, who works as an advanced practice pharmacist in a GP medical centre in Queensland.

“Obviously there are people with some concerns about what this means for certain segments of the profession but I think on a whole it really does reinforce what the PSA is doing in this area is on the right path.”

Of the poll results, nearly half (47% – 248 votes) said that the initiative “must have a focus on communication with community pharmacists”.

A sizeable minority reported direct concerns over the initiative, with 16% (86 votes) saying pharmacists in general practice will result in duplication of roles.

Fifteen percent of respondents believe it will take clients and work away from community pharmacy.

Eighteen percent (96 votes) believed money should be invested into pharmacist prescribing instead, while 15% said the money should be invested in community pharmacy.

Twelve percent think it will lead to a “hub and spoke” system like that pushed in the UK, which will see community pharmacies close.

Only 8% (43 votes) believe pharmacists in general practice will encroach on the work of GPs and nurses.

Dr Freeman says the PSA is working to address these concerns.

“I think debate on this topic is healthy, hearing views from people who are not only supportive of the role but also who have got concerns is important for the society to hear, because as a body we represent the entire profession. So we do need to hear those concerns and we have been hearing those concerns,” he told AJP.

“Sometimes there’s been a bit of misconception about what the term ‘non-dispensing pharmacist’ means – that is the term that was used in the Workforce Incentive Program.

“Some of the feedback that we’ve had, the perception was that it was at the exclusion of pharmacists working in community pharmacy. I can say categorically that this is not the case.

“This model is not at the exclusion of pharmacists working in community pharmacy. These models aren’t mutually exclusive,” says Dr Freeman.

“There will be opportunities for pharmacists who are currently working in community pharmacy to also concurrently work in general practice if they so desire to.”

He emphasises that the Workforce Incentive Program is only the beginning.

“The PSA are still strongly advocating for the inclusion of pharmacists on the MBS, particularly around the chronic disease management items, where we are the only health professional registered on AHPRA that have been kicked off that list.

“This is really just a piece in the puzzle, certainly not the finish line. It’s a good start and will help stimulate this model of practice to move forward but there’s still quite a bit of work to do.”

*Respondents could vote for more than one option.

See the full poll results below: