Patient consent in spotlight as pharmacists take on more diverse roles

11 August, 2015

With pharmacists' roles expanding into more diverse areas of patient care, the issue of patient consent is coming to the fore.

In the August issue of Australian Pharmacist, legal columnist Dr Laetitia Hattingh from Curtin University discusses the importance of obtaining legally valid consent from patients.

Dr Hattingh writes that pharmacists must ensure consent is obtained before undertaking activities such as medication reviews, carrying out any diagnostic or assessment procedures such as taking blood pressure, bone density screening, blood sugar and cholesterol monitoring and administering vaccinations.

"All adults of sound mind have the legal authority to either consent or refuse treatment or healthcare interventions. The principle of patient autonomy is embedded in the Pharmacy Board of Australia Code of Conduct for Pharmacists," Dr Hattingh writes.

The August issue of Australian Pharmacist also examined the roles that non-dispensing pharmacists can and do undertake in collaboration with GPs and allied health practitioners, including community pharmacists. At least 26 pharmacists are currently working collaboratively with doctors and allied health professionals in GP practices.

NSW pharmacist Alice Nugent who works with GP practices in western NSW told Australian Pharmacist, "in the surgeries I do a lot of gap filling. If there's no diabetes educator there then I might pick up some of the extra diabetes education work, and if there is no asthma educator there I lug around my bag with all my different puffers and things and adopt an asthma educator role."

Nugent sees her role as complementing the community pharmacy. "Rather than pinching business from them I'm helping them," she said.

PSA Board member and GP practice pharmacist Dr Chris Freeman agrees with Ms Nugent about practice pharmacists filling gaps and told Australian Pharmacist: "That's an important point. We are not duplicating services. We are value adding."

"We need to start thinking about how we can mould this model so that we can start to mentor and supervise pharmacists post registration in gaining skills and abilities in this area so that when they do go out and practice on their own in this environment they have the ability to do so," Dr Freeman said.