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Pharmacy prescribing trial has implications for all GPs

The North Queensland pharmacy prescribing trial is due to go ahead despite the concerns of doctors, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander communities and pharmacists themselves. Doctors are being urged to speak up. 

The AMA holds major concerns about the impact a pharmacy prescribing trial due to start in North Queensland will have on members of the public, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The AMA also continues to be concerned the trial could be the thin edge of the wedge, paving the way for undermining the role of general practice and primary care across Australia. 
 
At an emergency Town Hall meeting held about the trial and its impact last week, attendees heard from AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid; AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton; RACGP Vice President and Queensland faculty chair Dr Bruce Willett; Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Clinical Services Director Dr Jason King; AMA Queensland Ramping Roundtable Chair Dr Kim Hansen and North Queensland Doctors Guild and AMA Queensland GP representative, Dr Lee Jones. Thepanel also took questions and comment from doctors who attended.

Discussion centred on the risk the trial posed to members of the public, lack of transparency of the ongoing UTI trial conducted across Queensland by the state government, the conflict of interest and lack of training and pressure pharmacists would be under and the intention of the Pharmacy Guild to have pharmacy prescribing extended across Australia. There was also discussion about the likelihood misdiagnosed patients would end up in emergency departments, which are already under pressure.  

The trial, which would allow pharmacists to diagnose and prescribe drugs for 23 conditions including type 2 diabetes and heart conditions, “will put patients at risk and undermines the critical role of general practice in our health system,” Dr Khorshid said.

“The North Queensland Pharmacy Prescribing Program is due to commence any day now despite strong protests from our profession and known reservations of many in the pharmacy industry.

“This dangerous experiment removes the critical separation between prescribing and dispensing, putting pharmacy profits before patients. It puts patients and pharmacists themselves at risk by asking pharmacists to do a doctor’s job, but without any medical training. Pharmacists are among the poorest paid healthcare workers in our community and this trial will put them under extraordinary pressure.

“Doctors respect the considerable skills pharmacists bring to the care of patients. They are experts in medications and medication management and there is no doubt that they can contribute more to the delivery of health care in this country. 

“Healthcare workers function best when they are part of a collaborative team and in our primary care sector that’s a team coordinated by a GP and informed by medical diagnosis,” Dr Khorshid said.

AMA Queensland has been leading the campaign against this absurd and dangerous watering down of patient and primary care and discovered through a survey conducted earlier this year that one in five doctors had treated patients who had been misdiagnosed in the UTI Queensland pharmacy prescribing trial.  

The survey of more than 1300 Queensland doctors found complications ranging from antibiotic allergies to ectopic pregnancies to cervical cancer.  

AMA Queensland President Dr Maria Boulton said the Queensland Government and Pharmacy Guild had hailed the UTI trial a success but said there was no data to support this and she said the results of AMA Queensland’s survey had been “alarming”.

“Doctors reported 240 patient complications. One in five GPs who responded to the survey had seen patients with complications. The most shocking reports were that many patients had been misdiagnosed and did not have a UTI at all but often an STI, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy and cancer,” Dr Boulton said.

The AMA urges all doctors to talk to their local MPs about this urgent issue.  

To access campaign material and read more about the issue go to https://qld.ama.com.au/Stop-NQ-Pharmacy-Trial.

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