Call for pharmacists in GP clinics

3 minute read

Integrating pharmacists into general practice could improve medication safety, but research is needed first


The integration of pharmacists into general practices could improve medication safety, but Australian research is needed first

Despite a pharmacist group lobbying to integrate pharmacists into general practices, more evidence is needed to show it would result in improved health outcomes, according to the RACGP.

In its pre-budget submission, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) called for government funding for pharmacists to work in GP clinics, providing services including medication reviews and advice, education sessions, and monitoring prescribing behaviour.

They would not dispense medications, and would be funded by a model akin to the Practice Nurse Inventive Program, with practices receiving up to $125,000 per year to support a pharmacist.

The push comes after NHS England last month announced an investment of £112 million (A$216.7 million) to create an extra 1500 positions for pharmacists in general practice over the next five years.

RACGP president Dr Frank Jones told TMR the idea was good in theory, but “ we actually need to prove that it is a good idea before we spend lots and lots of money”.

A pilot program would be needed to investigate whether collocating pharmacists in GP clinics actually reduce the number of adverse drug events, including those that lead to hospital admissions, Dr Jones said.

Dr Evan Ackermann, chair of RACGP’s National Standing Committee – Quality, has long been in favour of a multidisciplinary approach to primary care, but also advised against moving too quickly based on overseas evidence.

“The problem with saying, ‘Let’s do the same thing as the UK’ is that the UK has a different health system,” he said. “It’s really in a basket case situation at the moment and it is no use copying a system that is in desperation.”

Dr Ackermann said the current system of dispensing drugs and advice to the community through for-profit pharmacies was failing to promote medication safety – and that bringing pharmacists under the umbrella of GP clinics could be one solution to that problem.

In an article published in MJA InSight in January, Dr Ackermann pointed to the proposed pharmacy-based Minor Ailments Scheme as one example of profit incentives potentially compromising patient care.

“[This] is a push by the pharmaceutical industry and pharmacy business to increase drug sales under the guise of health innovation,” wrote Dr Ackermann. “Unless there is integrity within the pharmacy sector, MAS programs will become just another mechanism for industry to increase drug use in the community.”

However, pharmacists inside GP clinics would no longer rely on drug sales for remuneration, improving the independence of their advice and medications safety of patients, he said.

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