Queensland Government disregard for patient safety

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners condemns the Queensland Government for its decision to allow pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections (UTIs) and a repeat of the contraceptive pill.

President of the RACGP, Dr Harry Nespolon has labelled the move as a misguided solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, which fails to acknowledge the healthcare needs of patients. Urinary tract infections can travel through the body and become very dangerous for the patient if not managed appropriately. The patient may have other health issues that may also impact on the type and dose of antibiotics required to treat the UTI.

It’s quite simple, pharmacists don’t have the medical training required to safely deliver these crucial healthcare services.

Likewise, prescribing contraception is an invaluable opportunity to assess the overall health and sexual health of the patient. Only GPs can provide this comprehensive and holistic care.

“While it may sound like a straightforward matter to prescribe medications for contraception and urinary tract infections, the Queensland Government clearly has not taken into account the complexities that can be involved in a patient visiting their GP for a script for antibiotics or the pill,” Dr Nespolon said.

“General practice is so effective in Australia because GPs treat the whole patient, not just a symptom.

“When a woman comes in for a repeat prescription of a pill, I make sure to check her blood pressure and look into any possible any side effects. I provide advice on if a longer term contraceptive may be best, check if she is due for a cervical screening and discuss her long-term fertility plans.

“These are conversations that will simply not happen in a pharmacy.”

Dr Nespolon said allowing pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for UTI’s also drastically increases the risks of community resistance of antibiotics and the creation of ‘super bugs’.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a real community risk, which has seen GPs become the stewards of antibiotic prescribing. Increasing the amount of professionals able to prescribe antibiotics will do nothing but exacerbate this issue,” Dr Nespolon said.

“The Queensland Government is thumbing its nose at antibiotic stewardship. Even the World Health Organisation sees this as a major health problem. Governments should be trying to decrease the number of prescribers of antibiotics not flippantly increase them.

“When you have a pharmacist dispensing and prescribing rights you remove all of the needed checks and balances on medications, leaving the system open for increased human error or worse, risk of manipulation for business purposes. Ultimately, it is the patient who suffers.

“I call on the Queensland Government to reconsider their decision, before any patient suffers the potential negative effects of this decision.”

Just this week, the RACGP provided comment to the Pharmacy Board of Australia consultation on proposed models for pharmacy prescribing which can be accessed from here

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