A pilot program giving pharmacists the power to diagnose and treat a number of conditions has been slammed by doctors as a “dangerous” money-grabbing move, despite the Pharmacy Guild of Australia maintaining the program will act as a “solution” to a number of issues plaguing the health industry.
The program will allow pharmacists to treat 23 ailments including urinary tract infections, gastro, ear infections, skin conditions and hormonal contraception, and is set to roll out in the state of New South Wales from February 2023.
Under this initiative, pharmacists will be authorised to administer additional vaccinations, prescribe medication for urinary tract infections and will see trained pharmacists prescribe medications for conditions like skin ailments, ear infections and hormonal contraception. pic.twitter.com/uK9pCXxipH
— Dom Perrottet (@Dom_Perrottet) November 13, 2022
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has said the scheme will help take the pressure off of GPs and hospitals and remove wait times for patients.
The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) has labelled the pilot program as “madness”, saying it will only increase the chances of patients receiving a misdiagnosis.
“Stop this madness before it’s too late, this is a recipe for disaster plain and simple.” RACGP president Karen Price said.
“Healthcare is about more than just writing prescriptions and sending people out the door on their way.”
Price slammed the move to widen a pharmacist’s scope as “little more than a dangerous script writing service that puts patient safety in jeopardy”.
“What particularly concerns me is that if this plan goes ahead patient care will be fragmented, resulting in reduced patient safety and reduced health outcomes,” she said. ”
“This isn’t a solution for patients, this is a solution for the pharmacy lobby. Continuity of care with a GP is so important, particularly for those patients with multiple, chronic conditions that need careful follow-up and management.”
The pharmaceutical trial was initially trialled in the state of Queensland but was pushed back to June 2023 following backlash from GPs.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) backed the RACGPs calls to stop the program, saying the move is nothing more than “a model that promotes pharmacy profits at the cost of patient safety”.
“Pharmacists are experts in medications and medication management and the AMA wants to work with pharmacists to develop models where we can contribute more to the delivery of health care in this country in a safe and collaborative way,” President Professor Stephen Robson said.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing models being pushed that do the opposite. They fragment care and lead to negative health outcomes, as we have seen in Queensland.”
A survey of over 1,300 doctors conducted by the AMA found that the QLD pilot had around 240 misdiagnosed patients and “inappropriate” prescribing of antibiotics.