GP turf war ramps up across the Tasman; UK GPs welcome new pharmacy minor ailment service; CVS staff sacked over racial profiling
New Zealand: The New Zealand Medical Association has slammed sore throat testing programs recently introduced by the Green Cross and Life Pharmacy chains.
The NZMA said in a statement that patient diagnoses are not simple, and what may present as a straightforward sore throat and upper respiratory tract infection could be symptomatic of a more serious illness such as flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and glandular fever.
NZMA says that pharmacists are not medically trained and their lack of clinical expertise and training in diagnosis can put patients at risk.
“In-pharmacy rapid antigen detection testing, better known as RADT (such as those recently introduced by Green Cross and Life Pharmacies) that ‘diagnoses’ whether an infection is viral or bacterial sends alarm bells ringing for our patients’ safety” said Dr Kate Baddock, Chair of the NZMA.
“We all understand the convenience of the ‘instant result’, but not when a patient’s health and safety is compromised.
“Our patients deserve the best health care available, and this type of RADT test has been independently tested and found wanting with poor sensitivity to results which means it cannot be relied on to rule out disease.
“This in turn puts our patients at risk as they believe they don’t need to have a full medical consultation despite the symptoms they are experiencing.”
UK: The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care is introducing a new NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, which will offer patients with common “minor” conditions a same-day pharmacy consultation if they call the NHS 111 phone service.
PharmaTimes reports that if this initial stage is proven to be a success, over the next five years GPs and Emergency departments could also start to offer the appointments.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that “Pharmacists are integral to community health and I want to move towards the French model, where they offer a wider range of services and play a stronger role in the community”.
“Every day more than a million people use our community pharmacies in England and we want to support our incredible pharmacists to unlock their full potential, helping them offer more health advice and support more patients as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS.
“Community pharmacies are a vital and trusted part of our NHS, and this five-year deal will ensure more people get support in the most appropriate setting, which in turn helps relieve pressure on the wider health service.”
The service will involve additional training for pharmacists.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said that the scheme was welcome.
“Introducing a greater variety of roles into the general practice team and making the best possible use of primary care professionals in the community is key to helping relieve the intense resource and workforce pressures facing GPs, and ultimately ensuring our patients get the care they need when they need it,” she said in a statement.
“Pharmacists are highly-trained healthcare professionals who already advise patients with a host of minor illnesses that don’t necessarily need the input of a GP, recommend suitable over-the-counter medication and self-care treatments, and play an important role in medication management on a daily basis. In doing so, they are vital to delivering patient care in the community and alleviating pressures in general practice.
“However, whilst this new scheme is welcome, it is not a silver bullet to addressing the pressures in primary care.
“Pharmacists – or any other primary care professional – must not be seen as substitutes for GPs, so efforts to recruit more family doctors, retain the existing GP workforce, and make it easier to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad must continue and be redoubled.”
Tulsa, Oklahoma: CVS Health has issued an apology and terminated the employment of two staff after a pharmacist called police on a black woman over her tone of voice.
Freelance writer Kendriana Washington, who takes medication for a chronic illness, live streamed the incident, which started when a point of sale system in the pharmacy’s drive-through declined her payment for the medicine, on social media.
Ms Washington asked the white staff member, Debbie, if they could try another register, saying she did have the funds to pay for the medicine, but the worker refused, reports Bet.com.
“No. You don’t have enough money on your account. That’s usually what that means,” Debbie told her.
Ms Washington went into the pharmacy to buy the medicine, and took cash from the ATM inside.
She told Debbie that her earlier comments had been discriminatory and racist, showed her that she did have the funds, and asked again for her medicine.
A white pharmacist, identified only as Tanya, went to finalise the transaction, but after Ms Washington rejected her apology and asked again for her medicine, called police on the customer.
“I don’t like your tone. You need to change your tone,” she said.
CVS Health issued a statement saying it “sincerely” apologised to Ms Washington for the experience.
“As soon as we learned of this incident, we contacted her and conducted a thorough investigation,” CVS said.
“As a result, the two employees who were involved are no longer employed by CVS.
“We are committed to providing courteous service and maintaining a welcoming environment in our stores.
“We have thorough non-discrimination policies and employee training in place to help ensure that all customers are treated with respect and dignity. Profiling or any other type of discriminatory behaviour is strictly prohibited, and against everything we stand for.”
The incident is the latest in a long series of occurrences in which white Americans have called police in response to innocuous behaviour by black Americans, including an incident in a Chicago, Illinois CVS Pharmacy in July 2018.
Wichita, Kansas: A pharmacist has been found guilty of one count each of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute prescription drugs and unlawfully distributing prescription drugs and two counts of health care fraud, reports KWCH.
According to US Attorney Stephen McAllister, Ebube Otuonye filled scripts for patients of Dr Steven R Hensen, who had been found guilty in late 2018 of “unlawfully distributing prescription drugs outside the usual course of professional medical practice and without a legitimate medical purpose”.
Dr Hensen was sentenced to life in a federal prison.
According to Mr McAllister, Mr Otuonye filled scripts for more than 21,600 tablets of oxycodone, more than 48,600 tablets of methadone, more than 18,000 tablets of hydromorphone and more than 7,800 tablets of alprazolam.
He said in a statement that prosecutors had presented evidence that Dr Hensen’s patients found other pharmacies in the area would refuse to fill their scripts – apart from the one owned and operated by Mr Otuonye.
“Otuonye’s pharmacy charged more than other pharmacies and he set up a system requiring Henson’s patients to fill three non-narcotic prescriptions when filling a narcotic prescription,” said Mr McAllister’s office.
“Prosecutors argued that Otuonye failed to perform his professional responsibilities by continuing to fill prescriptions for Henson’s patients despite warning signs including: Large numbers of prescriptions for highly addictive drugs, customers paying cash, multiple patients coming in at once with Henson’s prescriptions and patients from the same family presenting identical prescriptions.”
Mr Otuonye is facing the possibility of “decades” in federal prison, reports KWCH.