NSW is going ahead with plans that will allow the state’s pharmacies to prescribe some medications amid growing tensions between doctors and pharmacists.
More than 1000 pharmacies have signed up to the new trial, which is being led by the University of Newcastle and NSW Health, and will see patients able to get prescriptions for certain medications from a pharmacist rather than going to your GP.
But while the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has been campaigning against pharmacy prescribing, the president of its NSW branch said he would not be opposing the trial and hopes it will provide robust data about such schemes.
The new initiative was announced by the Perrottet government but has been supported by Health Minister Ryan Park since he was in opposition due to the potential for it to relieve lengthy GP wait times.
The trial was set to begin on April 1 but was delayed due to issues with the university’s ethics approval process. The trial’s new start date is set to be next month despite not being announced publicly.
In the first stage, pharmacists who have completed an online training module will be able to prescribe treatment for uncomplicated UTI’s in adult women aged 65 and under which is great news for all the UTI girlies out there.
From July, the trial will be expanded to include re-supply of the contraceptive pill to women aged 18 to 35.
As long as you’ve received a GP or nurse practitioner script within the past two years and as someone who hates going to the GP for the pill script, I’m pretty chuffed.
The AMA has previously strongly opposed moves that will allow pharmacists to prescribe certain scripts but this trial is set to be a true test run of for pharmacy prescribing.
Dr Michael Bonning, the Balmain GP who has led the AMA’s NSW branch since 2022, said after conversations with NSW Health and Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said he would wait for its results before making comment.
He denied this stance was at odds with the AMA’s opposition for pharmacy prescribing.
“Both things can absolutely be true: that a push towards open slather pharmacy prescribing does not fit with the clinical approach that the AMA supports … and that saying ‘no’ to everything is a surefire way for our health system not to learn,” said Bonning.
It has been a pretty tense week for pharmacists with the Aus government announcing that they will increase the length of scripts form one to two months supply for 325 common medicines.
The change will halve the out of pocket costs for Aussie’s with a number of chronic illnesses but will cut pharmacists’ dispensing fees as a result.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia reckons losses from out-of-pocket patient fees will sit at $2.3 billion over four years, but the government disputes that figure, putting it at around $1.6 billion.
As per The Sydney Morning Herald, Leichhardt pharmacist Christine Kelly said she felt “discarded” by the federal government’s changes, which would see her reconsider free services, such as making up webster packs.
“It’s like someone ripping 30 per cent out of my business, and then telling me how to deal with that,” she said.
Kelly, who has signed up for the prescribing trial, said pharmacists were already conducting work beyond dispensing for free including citing blood pressure checks, weighing babies, and assessing patients with online scripts.
Whose only in-person, physical interaction with a healthcare professional is with their pharmacist.
“They might live in Leichhardt but they get their script from a doctor in Melbourne,” she said.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia national president Fei Sim said pharmacists were also being asked to monitor patients who see their doctors via Telehealth.
She said the pharmacy prescribing trial would help women receive timely treatment in areas with long GP wait times and thank god for that.
“The whole rationale is to improve access to care for people who need it, when they need it,” she said.
As someone who avoids the doctor like the plague and who has also been told she needs to come in for an appointment instead of doing Telehealth calls for the pill every three months – I am thrilled about this new trial.
Fingers crossed it makes its way down to Melbourne ASAP.