RCPA distances itself from pathology stoush

Following GP backlash to Amcal pathology screenings, the Royal College of Pathologists has clarified its position

In a formal statement, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) has stated emphatically that it does not endorse the Sigma screening program rolled out through its Amcal network.

“The RCPA does not endorse or have any partnership or alliance with any programs in relation to the non-medical requesting of pathology tests,” says the College.

The College has also clarified its formal policy on non-medical practitioners requesting of pathology.

Dr Michael Harrison, President of the RCPA, says: “Irrespective of whether a pathology test is requested by a medical or non-medical practitioner, all test results provided by the pathology profession are utilised to assist in the diagnosis or management of a patient’s health in order to deliver the highest levels of care.

“Tests may be requested by a wide range of people who are not registered medical practitioners. These may include those who are part of current health care services, such as pharmacists, dieticians, physiotherapists, podiatrists and dentists.

“In these circumstances the RCPA Policy requires the laboratory and the requestor understand the importance of oversight by a medical practitioner.”

According to the RCPA’s policy, responsibilities lie with:

  • The requestor – to ensure that the test requested will provide useful clinical information;
  • The laboratory – to ensure the technical validity and integrity of the result; and
  • The interpreter – to ensure sufficient knowledge of both the test and the patient to allow correct interpretation.

The clarification comes after Dr Harrison told AJP last week that allowing people to access valid pathology testing through pharmacies would help increase screening rates for common chronic health issues.

“It’s hard to know why, but some people don’t see their GP for testing, they don’t visit their GP very often or, if they do, the GPs don’t order these tests,” he said.

“I have a concern that there are a lot of people out there not getting screened for common diseases like high cholesterol or early diabetes. So I think anything that’s a valid process is worthwhile.”

Dr Harrison pointed out that pharmacists would be prompted to refer patients to a doctor in the case of abnormal results, and any “very abnormal” results would be passed along to a GP enlisted into the program to help follow them up.

“These are valid tests, validated in a laboratory, with a mechanism to deal with abnormal results,” Dr Harrison told AJP.

“By doing this the tests are actually compliant with the college guidelines. If it wasn’t scientifically valid then the college would not approve.”

However the screening program has since been subject to huge backlash from doctors’ groups including the AMA and the RACGP.

Speaking on behalf of the RACGP, acting president Dr Edwin Kruys said that “While we welcome and encourage other healthcare providers to contribute to patient care, your GP clinic is the most appropriate place to order a pathology test, not a pharmacy.

“Pharmacists do not have the diagnostic skills required to provide this kind of care safely,” he argued.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon referred to pharmacy-based pathology tests as “second rate, wasteful non-care”.

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