Queensland is “out of step” with other jurisdictions, the Pharmacy Guild says in its submission to the state’s inquiry into the sector
And Courier-Mail editor Sam Weir says that wider responsibility for pharmacists “makes a lot of sense,” particularly in regard to low-dose codeine.
A Parliamentary Inquiry is currently looking into the rules governing who can own pharmacies and the health services pharmacists can provide in Queensland, as well as the establishment of a Pharmacy Council in the state.
Queensland Guild Vice President Kos Sclavos says that the establishment of a Pharmacy Council would bring Queensland into line with all other Australian jurisdictions and play an important role in bridging health gaps where pharmacies’ competencies could assist a health system under pressure.
“First and foremost, the Guild supports the establishment of a Pharmacy Council in Queensland to ensure transparency of pharmacy ownership and structure,” Mr Sclavos says.
“Furthermore, as Queensland is such a decentralised State in terms of pharmacy services, we would like a Pharmacy Council to hold a public record of Queensland pharmacies, and the key pharmacy services they offer.
“This would support best practice in dissemination of information on metropolitan, regional and rural pharmacies as front line health providers, and is critical at times of pandemic or health crises.
“Patient support groups often ask the Guild for such pharmacy lists, in particular key services such as methadone dispensing, needle and syringe, medicinal cannabis dispensing and even specialty language staff facilitators to ensure accurate and appropriate health outcomes are delivered to all Queenslanders.
“Queensland is out of step with other States and merely seeks to be brought into line,” he says.
The Inquiry is also reviewing the expanded role of pharmacists and pharmacy assistants in Queensland.
“Based on international data, we believe that existing competencies by pharmacists need to be utilised in a structured manner in the Queensland health system. This is a vital, first step before expanded scope of practice opportunities for pharmacists are considered and implemented across the health system,” Mr Sclavos says.
“In addition, the Guild believes that the current status of pharmacy assistants being regarded as ‘consumers’ according to the TGA advertising guidelines is totally inadequate.
“In 2018, with the advent of electronic health records, real time monitoring of specific medicines and the increasing of burden of administrative tasks with professional pharmacy programs, pharmacy assistants can play a key, non-clinical role in supporting pharmacists. For this to occur, a level of understanding in key clinical areas is essential, and one that requires education to pharmacy assistants by manufacturers and other health providers which is currently prohibited,” he says.
Although not in the terms of reference, the Inquiry has also posed a number of questions regarding pharmacy ownership.
“The terms of reference of the Inquiry are quite restrictive, however the feedback the committee is seeking is quite broad including issues on pharmacy ownership. The Guild has passionately defended the current ownership structure which continues to serve the healthcare needs of the Australian public extremely well,” Mr Sclavos says.
Meanwhile the editor of Queensland’s Courier-Mail has written an editorial asserting that pharmacists can help take pressure off the health system.
“Any changes should be approached with caution, but at face value the guild’s submission to a parliamentary inquiry calling for widening the scope of pharmaceutical practices, has merit,” Sam Weir writes.
“Specifically the guild is suggesting its members are well equipped to provide their local communities far more in areas such as medication adherence and management, prescription renewal, vaccinations and wound and pain management.
“At a purely logistical level, this makes a lot of sense. As an example, there would be the thousands of Queenslanders who rely on codeine-based pain medication, which is now available only via a doctor’s prescription, who would perhaps breathe a sigh of relief at one less hurdle and expense when it comes to managing their condition.
“That said, any expansion of a pharmacist’s responsibilities would have to be balanced by rigorous checks and caveats.”
Pharmacists “should be able to offer more than the just the retail end of the wider health service,” he writes.
Public hearings will be held in Brisbane on Monday 20 August, and Monday 3 September, 2018. The final reporting deadline from the Inquiry Committee is Sunday 30 September, 2018.