PSA urges unity between GPs and pharmacists

hands joining jigsaw puzzle pieces

Stoking a turf war between GPs and pharmacists will harm patient care, PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson has warned.

On Monday, the RACGP urged the public to avoid community pharmacy-run health checks, which RACGP Victoria chair Cameron Loy said were making health a commodity and fragmenting care.

‘These pharmacies are motivated by money, the opportunity to have more people in the store to buy other things,’ he said.

Dr Jackson said the attack ignored the fact health check services are within a pharmacist’s scope of practice and build on the accessibility of the community pharmacy network.

‘As readily accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists are many patients’ first port of call,’ he said.

‘Pharmacists use health checks to refer patients who are potentially at risk to a GP, when those patients might otherwise avoid or delay doing so.

Dr Jackson said countless pharmacies across Australia enjoyed excellent working relationships with their local GPs, and the Victorian State Coroner’s findings from the recent inquest into the death of a patient from methotrexate toxicity demonstrated the importance of the relationship between doctors and pharmacists.

‘Doctors and pharmacists should trust and respect each other, whilst retaining their independence,’ Coroner Rosemary Carlin wrote in her findings.

‘Whilst pharmacists should respect the doctor-patient relationship, they should not underestimate their own importance in the delivery of healthcare.’

Dr Jackson said, ‘We cannot afford to ignore this call for GPs and pharmacists to continue building respectful working relationships.’

‘We urge the RACGP to put aside such misdirected professional rivalries and focus on collaborating to improve Australia’s health.’

PSA supports screening and risk assessment services that are evidence based, provided by an appropriately trained and equipped pharmacist and designed with collaboration in mind.

Last year, to guide pharmacists in the development of these services, PSA released a position statement, based on five key principles. These principles are informed by the World Health Organisation’s principles of early disease detection and include:

  • Principle 1: Screening and risk assessment services should target conditions associated with a significant burden of disease, and populations where interventions provide greatest value.
  • Principle 2: Interventions must be evidence-based and appropriate for the pharmacy setting.
  • Principle 3: Pharmacists need to obtain and document informed consent.
  • Principle 4: Pharmacists must facilitate appropriate follow up, including referral for patients with a positive screening test.
  • Principle 5: Pharmacists must be appropriately trained and equipped to provide screening and risk assessment services.

See this month’s Australian Pharmacist journal to learn more about practice standards around screening and risk assessment services, or read PSA’s Screening and Risk Assessment Statement.