Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President Dr Chris Freeman has hit back at the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in an open letter published this week.
Dr Freeman’s strong and unequivocal letter is in response to the RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon’s call for the Queensland government to reconsider its decision to allow a trial for Pharmacists in Queensland to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections (UTIs) and repeat scripts for the contraceptive pill, and expand their range of vaccinations.
Dr Freeman set the tone of his letter early, saying “I am writing to object to the egregious assertions made in the RACGP’s submission to the Pharmacy Board of Australia – ‘Pharmacist Prescribing’ and the public statements that your President, Dr Harry Nespolon, has made against pharmacists, our role in healthcare, and the future role of pharmacists with regard to Collaborative Prescribing.”
Mr Freeman pulled no punches in his assessment of the validity of comments made by Mr Nespolon, saying “statements such as the ‘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 and that pharmacists simple do not have the healthcare training required to safely deliver healthcare services’ are inflammatory, disrespectful and ignore the five years of university and clinical training undertaken by pharmacists, in addition to ongoing regulated continuing professional development similar to other health professionals.”
“Indeed, pharmacists have the greatest level of clinical training regarding medicines compared to any other health professional. Indisputably, pharmacists are the medicines experts,” Mr Freeman said.
In the letter, available in full here, Mr freeman addresses what he describes as “several unfounded and prejudiced statements in relation to pharmacists being able to prescribe”.
In particular, Mr Freeman said “the outrageous statement ‘that patients will be exposed to unnecessary risk, including increased incidences of medication misadventure,’ disregards the fact that there is already an enormous issue around medication-related harm in Australia, many of these medicines prescribed by general practitioners.
“Three in five hospital discharge summaries, where pharmacists were not involved in their preparation, had at least one medication error and over 90 per cent of patients have at least one medication-related problem post-discharge from hospital.”
In his letter, Mr Freeman effectively addresses the issues raised by Mr Nespolon, including the statement that “the business needs of a pharmacy may be prioritised over the needs of patients”
In response, Mr Freeman points out that this blatantly disregards the fact that GPs themselves work in a business providing services with their own potential conflicts of interests.
“All health professionals are subject to professional standards codes and guidelines which demand health professionals place the health and welfare of patients ahead of any other interest. In this context pharmacists are no different to general practitioners,” he said.
Mr Freeman says PSA has argued that collaborative prescribing should be designed so that the pharmacist and the medical practitioner support each other. “They are complementary roles that would be designed to actually address the safety concerns of patients in an already fragmented care system. PSA believes pharmacists, medical practitioners, other allied health professionals and consumers should all work together as part of a wider health care team for the benefit of patients.”
In closing, Mr Freeman said it is essential that all health professionals work together for the benefit of patients as part of health team.
“PSA is disappointed that RACGP has chosen to diminish the role of pharmacists and their role as a trusted, patient-focused health care professional rather than work together towards fostering relationships and models of care that will greater benefit all Australians,” he said.