Sick notes one way to take up GP burden

doctor at computer

Community pharmacies have the skills, expertise and infrastructure to help ease the burden on GPs which the medical profession believes is a drain on the effective use of doctors’ time and resources, says the Guild.

A report released today into a review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule has cited routine or administrative consultations performed by general practitioners as being possible areas of reform and cost-saving for Medicare.

As reported in The Australian today, the MBS Review specifically cites the provision of absence-from-work certificates and other administrative tasks as areas of concern where doctors believe their time could be better spent.

Community pharmacists can and do already issue absence-from-work certificates, and are authorised to do so under the Fair Work Act, the Guild points out.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis, says the report clearly underscores the need to better utilise the skills and expertise of Australia’s network of community pharmacies.

“Community pharmacists are the most accessible health professionals in the country and are highly trained and skilled,” Tambassis says.

“Pharmacies already are able to provide absence-from-work certificates as well as other routine services which take up a lot of a GP’s time.

“Just one example is the nation-wide introduction of vaccinations through community pharmacies which has been an outstanding success. It not only frees up doctors’ time but also has been shown to have resulted in many people being vaccinated for the first time.

“This was a pharmacy-led initiative that has resulted in great health outcomes for the community.”

Tambassis says community pharmacies are increasingly introducing a range of professional services which improved the health of patients and also eased the burden on doctors.

“Patients can go into their community pharmacy today and access services including minor ailment care, blood pressure testing, smoking cessation programs, weight management, asthma care, and medicine checks – to name just a few,” he says.

“The range of services continues to grow in response to community needs. Every year, Australians make around 300 million visits to their local pharmacies with pharmacists consistently rated among the most trusted health professionals.

“Community pharmacies are transforming into health advice centres where patients are able to access many of the services which the report says doctors have questioned the need for them to perform.

“Having more of these services performed through community pharmacies is a win-win situation for doctors and for patients.”

However the AMA’s Michael Gannon told ABC News 24’s Andrew Geoghegan today that having sick notes signed by pharmacists is not always the best approach.

“I think that there’s no question that there’s a massive burden of red tape that falls on GPs, and they could certainly – they’ve got better things to do than filling out forms,” he said.

“When it comes to sickness certificates, there’s scope for many employers to say, ‘You don’t need a certificate for less than two days off work’.

“We know that nurses and pharmacists can sign plenty of those. But if you’re in a situation where you’re having your fourth run of sick days off in a winter, well there’s an opportunity there to look at your general health, to talk about preventative issues like vaccination, to really get to the bottom of why you might be getting sick so often.”

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