The week in review

Japanese convenience store Lawson
Image courtesy Lawson.

Scope of practice was the key issue in pharmacy this week, with a new policy paper from the Guild and anger from doctors

The Pharmacy Guild launched a new policy paper in Sydney this week, calling for pharmacists to play a greater role in the healthcare system, which could include treating common ailments, prescribing medicines and administering more vaccines… what the Guild calls “full scope of practice”. Guild national president George Tambassis said the health system had forgotten about the underutilised network of pharmacies, while Guild councillor Catherine Bronger said that flu vaccination is “the tip of the iceberg in terms of what pharmacists can do.”

The backlash from doctors was immediate, with the AMA‘s Dr Tony Bartone saying that “if the Pharmacy Guild wants pharmacists to be doctors, then pharmacists should spend 10 to 15 years studying for a medical degree”.

However Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells has written that she and the organisation support a wider role for pharmacists in the Australian healthcare system, as well as the PSA‘s Pharmacists in 2023 report.

Criticism of the Pharmacy Guild and the location and ownership rules continues to appear in the mainstream media: former ACCC boss Graeme Samuel said that discount pharmacies were like Uber and could shake up the sector if the rules were loosened or scrapped, while Jeff Rogut, CEO of the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores, said consumers want pharmacies in this channel. This prompted a response from Mr Tambassis, who said pharmacist services are not the sort of thing that should be available from “a Seven-Eleven wedged between the Krispy Kreme doughnuts or next to the alcohol or cigarettes that supermarkets sell”.

We spoke to Michael McGrady, who last month claimed he had significant complications after a pharmacist gave him a flu vaccine in his back.

At an SHPA forum, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced some new restrictions on opioids; at the Press Club he also announced the Government’s Long-Term National Health Plan, which has a strong mental health focus which was welcomed by the Guild.

Carlene McMaugh looked at the vexed issue of pharmacist pay; another problem facing pharmacists —stress, from issues such as high workload or abusive customers—came to the fore with a new report by the Australian Council of Trade Unions which found 60% of health workers had experienced mental health problems due to work. PDL and the Pharmacists Support Service said this was consistent with feedback from members and callers respectively.

The issue of sexual harassment in the workplace came to the fore, when Bria Lacy wrote on her blog about her experience of being harassed by a colleague during her internship at a discount pharmacy. Pharmacists Support Service’s Kay Dunkley praised Ms Lacy’s courage in speaking out about the issue.

Next week is Be Medicinewise Week, and NPS Medicinewise is encouraging Australians to learn the language of medicines and talk to pharmacists to help them get to know the drugs they’re taking.

New research has found limited evidence of any real differences between pharmacy in rural and urban locations; SHPA called for one full-time integrated pharmacist for every 200 aged care residents; and we looked at whether 50-year-olds should have access to the flu vaccine on the NIP.

And from everyone at AJP, congratulations to David Weston, CEO of APPco, the publisher of the AJP, who has recorded 20 years of service to APPco, AJP and pharmacy.

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