Concerning details emerge on North Queensland pharmacy pilot

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has urged the Queensland Government to come to its senses and scrap the planned North Queensland Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot before it's too late.

It comes following the stunning revelation that newly registered pharmacists who have just completed their internship could be diagnosing patients under the pilot as early as March next year.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said this new information, outlined by Pharmacy Guild President Trent Twomey at the Guild's national conference, should send a shiver down the spine of the Queensland's politicians.

"It just gets worse and worse," she said.

"I think many patients would be very worried that a pharmacy intern thinks that they can do the same job as a GP.

"It's bad enough that this pilot will see pharmacists diagnosing, treating, and prescribing for a host of complex medical conditions outside of a healthcare team completely unsupervised and out of their depth. Now we learn that newly registered pharmacists will be rolling up their sleeves and taking part in this pilot. So, unless the Government acts to halt this madness we will have these newly registered pharmacists treating health conditions including type 2 diabetes and serious heart conditions."

The RACGP President said that it was just the latest in a series of concerning developments.

"The more we learn about this pilot the more worrying it gets," she said.

"We know that pharmacists just don't have the proper training and expertise to be taking on these responsibilities. GPs undergo a minimum of 10-years training where we learn how to diagnose and treat patients independently. Under the pilot, pharmacists will be playing doctor after taking part in a course equivalent to a few months of training. Then they will be sent on their way to communities across the north of the state to treat patients for conditions that if not managed extremely carefully can have serious consequences.

"Patient care will be fragmented because the GP won't know what the pharmacist or pharmacy intern will be doing and vice versa. If you are someone with multiple chronic conditions this can make all the difference between having your health carefully managed and ending up in a hospital bed, or worse.

"Pharmacists will tell you that this pilot is necessary due to GP shortages in Queensland. The college I lead is working with national and state and territory governments to ensure a better distribution of GPs across the country, including northern Queensland. However, Band-aid solutions like this pilot are not the answer. Keep in mind too that Australia also has a shortage of pharmacists in many areas. In fact, the Professional Pharmacists Australia themselves outlined concerns regarding workforce shortages and capacity of pharmacists to absorb further demands including prescribing powers.

"Enough is enough, I call again on the Queensland Government to end this madness and stop this pilot before patient health and safety is compromised in the name of pharmacy owner profits."


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