Watering down of prescription legislation puts patients at risk

04 June, 2018

Australian GPs are concerned a proposal to allow prescriptions to be written within pharmacies would fragment patients’ healthcare and put them at serious risk.

Chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Queensland, Dr Bruce Willet said it is vital prescriptions are managed by specialist GPs and their healthcare teams in a general practice setting.

“GPs, as specialists in patients’ medical histories are uniquely placed to be able to deliver high quality care to Australians through a thorough understanding of their patients’ overall health,” Dr Willet said.

“There is abundant proof that fragmenting care worsens health outcomes.

“Patients want to spend more time with their GP, and it’s important that the Queensland State Government understands and supports the community to see their GP and experience better health outcomes.

Dr Willett said when a patient receives health advice or screening in a retail pharmacy, as opposed to a general practice, they miss out on important preventative healthcare services.

“This could result in a delayed diagnosis and in turn, delayed care,” Dr Willett said. 

“For example, limited repeats on medications for the treatment of oral contraceptives and cardiovascular disease ensure patients can continue to be monitored while receiving treatments and medications, ensuring the right medication is prescribed at the right time.

“Through prescribing contraceptives through a doctor’s appointment a GP is able to review if the right method is being used through a review of symptoms, ensuring side effects do not have dangerous consequences.

“Removing this opportunity takes away from ensuring vital tests such as cervical screenings and STI tests are completed and women have a full picture on the potential use of options such as LARCs.

Dr Willett said ensuring patients remain healthy by prescribing the correct medication at the appropriate time is a core role of all specialist GPs.

“The argument that pharmacists issuing low-risk medications would take pressure of GPs and emergency departments is ludicrous,” Dr Willett said.

“Allowing anyone other than a patient's regular GP or other medical specialist to prescribe medications, fragments continuity of care and results in their medical records no longer displaying the full picture.

“This puts vulnerable patients at serious risk and must be avoided.”

The RACGP will be providing a submission to the inquiry on behalf of its more than 38,000 members.

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