The Queensland Government plans to review current commercial arrangements of pharmacy ownership, following the state’s pharmacy inquiry
The Queensland Government has responded to the report into the establishment of a Pharmacy Council and transfer of ownership in Queensland, accepting all of the Committee’s recommendations, some in principle.
Among these recommendations were that the state Department of Health lower the minimum patient age requirement for pharmacist-administered vaccinations to 16 years of age; this recommendation was recently implemented.
The Committee also recommended that Health develop options to provide low-risk emergency and repeat scripts, such as that for the oral contraceptive pill, and low-risk vaccinations.
The Government accepted this in principle, stating that it will “develop, implement and evaluate a state-wide trial to provide low-risk emergency and repeat prescriptions for the contraceptive pill and antibiotics for urinary tract infections”.
It also says it will commence consideration of low-risk vaccinations being administered by pharmacists – including low-risk travel vaccinations – following further investigation by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
It accepted the recommendation that the Minister for Health, Steven Miles, seek support through the COAG Health Council for nationally consistent education and training requirements and scope of practice for pharmacists administering vaccinations.
Executive director of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Pam Price wrote in Forefront that the decision to accept all the recommendations was “ground-breaking” and that the Guild congratulates the state Government on its decision to run the OCP and UTI trial.
This decision “will provide Queensland patients with safe and convenient access to medicines as required, under appropriate protocols which will ensure collaboration with the patient’s other health professionals including their doctor,” Ms Price wrote.
“This a major step forward for patient care and sensible use of the community asset that is represented by highly-trained pharmacists distributed across the State in the most accessible health infrastructure of all – community pharmacies.
“It has potential to bring Queensland into line with comparable jurisdictions around the world which are already making better use of community pharmacy resources. It also has potential to create a model taken up by other Australian jurisdictions.
“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.
“More in sorrow than in anger, we expect the usual predictable naysaying from certain doctor groups, whose knee-jerk concern for their business model masquerades as concern for patient safety,” Ms Price wrote.
“What we say to them is: 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, and give patients more control of their own health.
“We are sure most GPs will adopt this positive approach, regardless of what their peak body may say.”
An ownership review
The Queensland Government also accepted – in principle – the recommendation that a Queensland Pharmacy Advisory Council be established.
“The establishment of a Queensland Pharmacy Advisory Council may require amendments to the Pharmacy Business Ownership Act 2001 to facilitate and define the roles, responsibilities and reporting functions of the Council and to implement measures to ensure appropriate funding arrangements,” the Government responded.
“The Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services will appoint an Interim Pharmacy Roundtable prior to the formal establishment of the Queensland Pharmacy Advisory Council to allow a smooth transition.
“Queensland Health will act as the secretariat for the Interim Pharmacy Roundtable in the short term, and for the formally established Council in the long term.”
Queensland Health will also review all current commercial arrangements of pharmacy ownership, it says, “to ensure equitable application of pharmacy ownership regulation across the sector”.
“Queensland Health understands that limiting the reviews to transfers of ownership transacted from 3 May 2016 onwards, would be inequitable as it would apply scrutiny and enforcement action to some pharmacy owners and not others who may have similar commercial arrangements in place.
“Queensland Health will review all transfers relating to business arrangements that are still current, ensuring all current owners are subject to the same scrutiny and enforcement actions.
“Notifications for arrangements that are no longer valid (for example, if a pharmacy has subsequently transferred ownership), will be considered out of scope.
“This approach will maximise the effectiveness of the review and avoid expenditure on reviews that have no current application.”
The review of transfers will provide baseline information about compliance levels with current legislation and will assist in the identification of any necessary changes required to the Pharmacy Business Ownership Act 2001 to improve Queensland Health’s ability to administer the Act.
And in principle, the Queensland Government accepted the recommendation that the Act be amended to allow Health to more effectively manage the pharmacy ownership notification process – including establishing offence provisions for certain breaches.
It is likely that “multiple tranches” of amendments to the Ownership Act may be required.
But current pharmacy ownership requirements of the Act would be retained.
Queensland Health also plans to establish a website for the public which would list pharmacies and the services they provide.
Read the full Queensland Government response to the report here.