Pharmacist prescribing a dangerous proposition that won’t solve the labor problem

The Australian Medical Association has urged the NSW state government to drop any consideration of a trial that would allow pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections, saying it would lead to poorer patient outcomes .

AMA Federal Chairman Professor Steve Robson said it was particularly frustrating that NSW announced its intentions for the trial on the day of the peak of the general practice crisis.

“General practice is facing critical issues with years of underfunding leading to significant numbers of GPs retiring earlier, while fewer doctors are choosing general practice as their specialty,” said Professor Robson .

“Governments must come up with workable solutions to support general practice and create collaborative models of care – not changes that completely undervalue the quality of care provided by general practice and fragment patient care.

“This dangerous experience signals a lack of respect for general practice and the years of training, experience and knowledge required to properly diagnose and treat a medical condition. If implemented in New South Wales, this will have disastrous consequences for the future of the workforce.

Prof Robson said the trial was bad for general practice and also unlikely to reduce pressure on our public hospitals.

“We know from the Queensland trial that it hasn’t relieved pressure on emergency services, but rather made women wait longer for treatment for conditions that are easily mistaken for UTIs, including pregnancy, precancerous conditions and sexually transmitted infections that can lead to infertility.

The AMA presented an alternative model that would allow healthcare professionals to work at the top of their scope of practice, but through a team model with pharmacists employed in GP practices.

“We want to work collaboratively with governments to find healthcare solutions that relieve workforce pressures, without compromising patient care,” Prof Robson said.

AMA NSW Chairman Dr Michael Bonning said it was disappointing that the Minister of Health was pushing ahead with a trial which was tested in Queensland and clearly had a negative impact on patients.

“The government is looking for quick fixes to the crisis in the healthcare system, but pharmacist prescribing will lead to higher healthcare costs and poorer patient outcomes,” Dr Bonning said.

“There is a conflict of interest in allowing pharmacists to prescribe and dispense medicines, which is why GPs do not sell the medicines they prescribe. It is disconcerting that the government is now considering a model that completely overturns this long-held principle.

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