In its submission to the King Review, the RACGP argues that rather than funding pharmacies to operate after hours, consumers might be better served if GPs had more ability to dispense.
“Patients visiting a GP outside of normal business hours may have an expectation of access to prescribed medicines,” the submission says.
“The Pharmacy Review raises a proposal of an incentive payment to support pharmacies to operate after hours.
“Given that a number of pharmacies already have extended business hours, an additional incentive is unnecessary unless a clear case regarding access to medications after hours can be articulated.
“To promote a cost-effective and coordinated health system, a more efficient option would be to allow GPs who are already offering after-hours services to dispense a range of commonly used medications when necessary.”
We asked AJP readers what they thought – and it appears that there’s a wide range of opinions.
The strongest response was that prescribing and dispensing should be separate processes, with 34% of readers (128 voters) supporting this as their preferred option.
Some supported a greater role for pharmacists in prescribing, but were not keen on GPs being given more power to dispense. A total of 86 readers said GPs should not get more dispensing rights, but pharmacists should be allowed limited prescribing rights such as repeat scripts – that’s 23% of the vote.
Another 15% of voters said that if pharmacists could perform limited prescribing, GPs should be allowed limited dispensing.
Former pharmacist of the year Karalyn Huxhagen told the AJP today that under most circumstances, there’s little need for GPs to give out medicines and that the processes are kept separate for a reason.
“Certainly if they’re in a rural, remote or isolated practice they can apply for a dispensing licence. But I don’t see why there’s a need for them to dispense in a normal situation when there’s so many pharmacies and pharmacy type services available,” Huxhagen says.
“I would still be pretty much fighting for a separation of processes.
“The current situation where pharmacists aren’t given prescribing rights except in limited situations applies the other way: a clean set of eyes is always a great idea.”
She says that GPs and pharmacists bring different skills and resources, especially in terms of time, to the process of determining which medicine a patient needs and supplying it in a way which encourages the best outcome.
“A GP is presented with a very diverse set of symptoms and has to look at a very large picture of what they could use; then when the patient gets to the pharmacy we’ve got the time to have a discussion with them that’s specific to the medicines.”
In terms of support for GP dispensing, 13% of AJP readers said they would support greater dispensing rights for GPs regardless of what pharmacists do.
Another 5% said they would only support this as an after-hours service, and 8% said they would support dispensing samples and other short-term solutions.