GPs remain concerned about the expanding role of pharmacists and what they might be paid to do in the future, AMA president Associate Professor Brian Owler in an address to the Press Club.

In his address A/Prof Owler discussed issues facing GPs such as the Medicare rebate freeze – doctors have just launched an “anti-freeze” campaign to battle it – and public hospital funding.

He told reporters, in response to a question by News Corp’s Sue Dunlevy, that the AMA supported pharmacists “to be pharmacists” but remained concerned by support in the 6CPA for their role to change.

Dunlevy asked what the AMA could learn from the tactics of the Pharmacy Guild, “the one group in the health sector that’s managed to get an increase in pay out of this government”.

“We recognise that there’s an important role for pharmacists to play and they need to be supported to actually provide medications for patients in a timely and safe and effective manner,” A/Prof Owler said.

“Now, the Pharmacy Guild are a strong lobby and good luck to them, they’ve negotiated strongly with the Government.

“The problems that we have with the latest CPA is really in relation to the roles of pharmacists and what they might be paid to do in the future. And I think we need to get back to recognising and respecting everyone’s roles within the health system, what their training, what their education actually is and what it actually prepares them to do.

“And so, the only problem that we have in terms of the pharmacists is when we start talking about them taking a much more active role in doing some of the roles where it is really the GP’s role.”

In supporting “pharmacists to be pharmacists” A/Prof Owler cited the AMA’s proposal with the PSA on creating a role for non-dispensing pharmacists in general practice that allows pharmacists to educate consumers on their medicines.

“And actually the evidence is that there are savings that can be made through that.”

A spokesperson for the Guild told the AJP that the scope for productive collaboration is significant.

“And there is plenty of scope for pharmacists to add value to the health system without encroaching on the turf of GPs or exceeding their appropriate scope of practice,” he says.

“We are committed to better use of pharmacy resources, better outcomes for patients, a better result for the efficiency of the health system, and collaborative relationships with other health professionals including doctors.”