‘This is about pharmacists trying to be the best pharmacists they can be.’

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It’s not up to doctors to dictate what services pharmacists should be able to offer, says a Guild leader

Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone appeared in Fairfax media on Thursday, calling for Medicare rebates for pharmacy services such as travel vaccination, amid doctor backlash.

He said that pharmacists should be able to provide patients with travel vaccinations, as well as prescribe the oral contraceptive pill and treatments for UTIs and erectile dysfunction, under a protocol.

Pharmacists should be paid the same as GPs for performing the same tasks, Mr Tassone told reporter Dana McCauley.

Mr Tassone’s comments follow the release of a new Guild policy paper this week, which calls for “full scope of practice” for pharmacists, which would include treating common ailments, prescribing medicines and administering more vaccines.

However Mr Tassone said that his comments about the MBS, published by Fairfax, were largely drawn from the Pharmacy Guild’s submission to the MBS review on allied health reference group.

This submission states that, “The Guild believes that it would be appropriate for pharmacists to access the MBS when delivering services to consumers irrespective of where the pharmacist is practising”.

“A patient accessing health services should not be disadvantaged by where they choose to access those services or by which health professional delivers them,” this submission says.

“Pharmacists currently have no option but to charge the patient a service fee for items that other health practitioners may be claim an MBS item for. The Guild supports the addition of pharmacists to the list of eligible health professions that can claim against specific items on the MBS.”

AMA national president Dr Tony Bartone appeared on ABC Radio Melbourne’s Breakfast with Jacinta Parsons and Sami Shah and condemned the idea of pharmacists performing travel vaccinations.

When Mr Shah asked, “What’s wrong with pharmacists being able to do just to a little bit of medicine work?” Dr Bartone responded that the AMA’s position was “about everyone working within their true scope of practice”.

“Travel vaccination is a very complex field,” Dr Bartone said.

“It varies even in terms of the country that you’re attending, in terms of past vaccinations, other medications, other conditions that you’ve got, age of the children and other people travelling with you. It’s such a complex area. It’s not just, you know, roll up your sleeve and have a jab.

“The whole premise around this is that we’re trying to sort of make the delivery of medicine, delivery of clinical care very piecemeal, have a little bit, you know, stick a little bit in here and do a little bit there and put all of these little pieces together and hope that we come up with a continuous, non-fragmented clinical care with quality outcomes.

“And that’s the problem. You need to have teams working together in a collaborative model where everyone works their true scope of practice.”

When Ms Parsons asked about the centralisation of medical records – such as My Health Record – Dr Bartone replied that “The centralisation of medical records that you referred to is, one, a long way off still in terms of utility and, two, is never going to be a replacement for the clinical desktop file that is up currently on your GP’s consulting room”.

“That will be more complete, more detailed and more extensive than anything that you will find in the cloud,” he said.

Anthony Tassone later told the AJP that, “It is not a matter for the AMA or any other peak body to dictate to pharmacists what services they can and can’t deliver as part of their scope of practice”. 

“That is a matter for our regulatory board, the Pharmacy Board of Australia under the AHPRA scheme,” he said.

“This is not about pharmacists trying to be doctors, this is about pharmacists trying to be the best pharmacists they can be and practising to our full scope of practice.

“This is also not about ‘trying to take work off doctors’ – sadly there is enough sickness and chronic disease in our community to keep the broad health professional team very busy with a system under much strain and an aging population. 

“It is about making best use of our health professionals in the broader team to deliver accessible, affordable and safe care for patients in a sustainable health system.”

Regarding patient records, Mr Tassone said that community pharmacies across Australia have embraced immunisation services for patients, and have patient record systems that are integrated with and upload to centralised databases such as the Australian Immunisation Register and also the myHealth Record. 

“Community pharmacies played a significant role in helping see a record number of Australians exceeding 12 million vaccinated against influenza in 2019,” he said.

“Any perceived fears of ‘fragmentation of care’ do not excuse delays in care or potentially no care being accessed.”

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