Is it possible to expand the role of pharmacists within the healthcare system without increasing the scope for medical error? According to an Australian medical body, the answer is no.
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The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) dismissed the idea, saying ‘it is unclear what issue the proposed models intend to solve.’
In January, the Pharmacy Board of Australia published a discussion paper proposing that ‘non-medical prescribing may contribute to the delivery of sustainable, responsive and affordable access to medicines.’
The idea was also put forward as a way to help address doctor shortages. The proposal said pharmacists could prescribe either under a structured prescribing arrangement, under supervision or autonomously. The RACGP’s response says none of these models should be applied in a primary care setting.
The RACGP statement said: “It appears that the consultation is considering ‘how’ pharmacists should prescribe, without appropriately considering whether pharmacy prescribing is appropriate at all.
We know that many medical professions, and even pharmacists themselves, consider it inappropriate that pharmacists expand their role into prescribing.
The provision of medical services by health professionals lacking the necessary medical training or registration is an inappropriate and unsustainable solution to address the health needs of Australians.”
Dr Harry Nespolon, President of the RACGP said the proposal was more to do with pharmacists’ business models than with the delivery of health care. Nespolon said the idea would fragment care and result in more medication errors.
The RACGP says allowing pharmacists to prescribe medications would expose patients to unnecessary risks, and that pharmacists are unable to provide elements such as preventive care and chronic disease management.
The RACGP said: “No amount of training, other than the completion of a medical degree and specialist training, would be sufficient to support autonomous pharmacist prescribing.
“It is not possible to substitute the years of study and clinical practice undertaken by a specialist GP, or other medical specialist, with a minimum level of clinical experience and a postgraduate qualification.”
Whatever decision is made about Australian pharmacists, it seems clear that there is a live debate over the role of pharmacists in all countries.
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