A new trial in NSW will allow pharmacies to prescribe medications like antibiotics and hormonal contraceptives. It’s been labelled as a “gamechanger” for Australians living in rural areas by the regional health minister and aims to provide better access to healthcare, but multiple doctors’ groups aren’t stoked on the idea.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the 12-month project on Sunday alongside a separate vaccine trial program that was rolled out on Monday. The prescription trial mimics a pilot program to be rolled out in North Queensland next year and is similar to programs currently running in countries like Canada and the UK.

“There is pressure on the health system right across the board and we want to make sure people, whether they’re in metropolitan Sydney or regional NSW, have access to the best healthcare,” he said, per The Guardian.

Pharmacists can already administer vaccines like COVID-19 jabs and the flu shot but under the trial, they will also be able to give out a further six vaccines including shingles, Hepatitis A and B and jabs for travel purposes.

The second trial is due to begin in February, which will eventually give pharmacists the power to prescribe medication to patients as soon as the end of 2023. Pharmacists will go through training before they are able to treat up to 23 conditions including urinary tract infections, skin conditions and hormonal contraceptives.

But the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) oppose the plan and claimed it could put patients in danger.

“The Premier should be introducing policies that support general practice, not contributing to its collapse,” NSW AMA president Michael Bonning said in a statement.

“If the Premier wants to improve patient access to healthcare, he could act immediately to halt an unfair tax grab that is forcing many general practices to consider closing their doors.”

RACGP president Karen Price slammed the NSW pharmacies trial as an “alarming scheme” that encroaches on patient safety in a statement shared by the ABC.

“Healthcare is about more than just writing prescriptions and sending people out the door on their way,” she said.

“This alarming scheme promises to be little more than a dangerous script writing service that puts patient safety in jeopardy … patient care will be fragmented, resulting in reduced patient safety and reduced health outcomes.”

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