Pharmacy Council Campaign

From 2016 to 2018, the Queensland Parliament held an Inquiry investigating the establishment of a pharmacy council, expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists and pharmacy assistants and a pharmacy trial allowing pharmacists to prescribe the contraceptive pill and anti-biotics for conditions such as UTI’s.

In our submission to the Inquiry, AMA Queensland opposed the increase in scope of practice on the basis that allowing pharmacists to write prescriptions would lead to fragmentation of patient care, produce poorer outcomes, increase the risk of antibiotics resistance and placing pharmacists in a conflict of interest.

In April 2019, the Health Minister Steven Miles announced his response to the report from a Parliamentary Inquiry including support “in-principle”, a pharmacy trial allowing pharmacists to prescribe the contraceptive pill and anti-biotics for conditions such as UTI’s and supporting the establishment of a pharmacy council.

In July 2019, AMA Queensland, RACGP and ACCRM wrote a letter to the Health Minister indicating their opposition to the pharmacy trial and the ntention to withdraw from the reference group who are responsible for designing the pharmacy trial. The AMA Queensland Pharmacy Working Group elevated the issue of the pharmacy trial to AMA Federal who also established a Pharmacy Working Group who are exploring contemporary models of dispensing, calling for an end to pharmacists out of scope professional services and facilitating incorporation of pharmacies into general practices or at least have them collocated.

In August 2019 AMA Federal released a position statement called the AMA 10 Minimum Standards for Prescribing which describes the requirements for prescribers to be able to prescribe S4 and S8 medicines. This was not designed to placate the move by pharmacists to seek permission to prescribe as it applies to all health professionals.

In October 2019, AMA Federal issued a press release stating that they were pleased that the Pharmacy Board of Australia had taken the same position on autonomous prescribing by stating that they would not be pursuing a model of autonomous prescribing by pharmacists.

In October 2019, AMA Federals Pharmacy Working Group developed an advocacy blueprint which includes five key strategies:

  1. Push for deregulation of pharmacy ownership generally in order to improve access;
  2. That the question of convenience be focuses on access to quality integrated coordinated care;
  3. That access integrated coordinated care is best provided by the GP Team (which aligns with other strategies);
  4. That the role of the Pharmacist in general practice be expanded to include dispensing of medications; and
  5. That enabling technology and systems such as vending machines and drop box facilities be explored as part of the model.

Also in October 2019, AMA Queensland became aware of a physiotherapists prescribing trial currently being held in 5 ED in Queensland Health Hospitals, which allows physiotherapists who are treating patients in EDs with a variety of non-complex (category 3,4, and 5) musculoskeletal injuries being able to prescribe S2, S3, S4 and S8 medicines.

In November 2019, AMA Queensland Council and AMA Queensland President Dr Dilip Duphelia supported 4 motions bought forward from the Chair of the AMA Queensland PWG, Dr Nick Yim that:

  1. AMA Federal and AMA Federal President continue to advocate against non-medical practitioners prescribing of S4 and S8 medications;
  2. A ban on non-medical practitioners being given authority to prescribe S4 and S8 medicines that is contrary to national legislation;
  3. An urgent and immediate end to the physiotherapy trial being held in public hospitals in Queensland noting that the validity and reliability for the trials is yet to be assessed; and
  4. That AMA Queensland asks the Federal AMA to approach the physiotherapy board to clarify their position on autonomous prescribing of S4 and S8 medicines.

In December 2019, AMA Federal released a Guidelines of Ownership of Pharmacy and Dispensing by Doctors arguing that relaxing pharmacy ownership rules would benefit patients.

In terms of doctors owning a pharmacy, the guidelines state, The AMA believes patient access and convenience in obtaining medications can be improved by doctors being permitted to own pharmacies, provided such ownership is managed ethically, addresses conflicts of interests, and maintains the clear distinction between prescribing and dispensing.

In terms of dispensing by Doctors, the guidelines state, “In general, doctors should consider avoiding the dispensing of pharmaceutical or other therapeutic products unless the benefits to the patient, such as in improved access, outweigh any potential safety concerns. Where dispensing by a doctor does occur, it should be based on clinical need and not be for the purpose of material gain as this introduces risks of real or perceived conflicts of interest.

What should I say?

AMA Queensland has drafted two form letters which you can easily modify. We recommend you use one of these.

If you want to write your own letter, we recommend you read the AMA Queensland submission in addition to the inquiry report to help inform the position you take in the letter.

How do I contact my Local MP?

If you don’t know what electorate you live or work in, you can find out by clicking here and entering your address in the search bar.

Once you know what electorate you are in, use this document to find out who your local MP is and what their contact details are.

AMA Queensland strongly encourages all our members to make their voice heard to counter the efforts of the Pharmacy Guild. Please write to your local MP, using one of our form letters or your own words if you wish, to let them know why pharmacy prescribing is a dangerous proposal fraught with consequences for doctors, patients and the broader health system.

Meet with your local member and put our case forward

We also encourage all AMA Queensland members to reinforce their letter by meeting with their local MP in person to put their concerns to them directly.

How do I arrange a meeting?

You need to contact their offices and request a meeting. If you don’t know what electorate you live or work in, you can find out by clicking here and entering your address in the search bar. 

Once you know what electorate you are in, use this document to find out who your local MP is and what their contact details are.

How do I make the most of the meeting?

  1. It is likely that you will only have a short amount of time to discuss your issue, so it is important to be clear and concise in what you are asking for. (As a guide 30 minutes is a common appointment length – but this should always be clarified so that best use is made of whatever available time you have)
  2. If you know other doctors who share your concerns, organise a small team to attend the meeting. This will give you some moral support and back-up. If you can organise representatives of other groups concerned about the issue, that’s even better. This will help to show your MP that the issue has wider community support
  3. Appearance shouldn’t matter, but it does. Get off on the right foot by dressing appropriately and arriving on time. Looking smart and well-groomed gives a better first impression
  4. Start by introducing yourself and thanking your MP for taking the time to meet with you. Remember to speak clearly, politely and audibly and maintain good eye contact. It’s great to be passionate, but balance this with politeness
  5. Make sure you know how to pronounce their name and which party they belong to
  6. Know what it is that you want to tell them. Read the AMA Queensland submission to the inquiry as well as the inquiry report. Whilst no one expects you to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the issue, a good understanding of the issue coupled with your own professional knowledge will be very persuasive
  7. Be confident about what you do know and offer to get back to them on anything you don’t. Saying “I don’t know” is always better than making points you can’t back up
  8. Let them know your concerns about the proposal to expand pharmacists’ scope of practice. Be clear as to why you have concerns and the dangers it poses not only to patient care but to the broader health system. Back it up with your own experience as a doctor
  9. Remember, your MP is there to represent you regardless of how much you know about your issue. The most important reason for meeting with your MP is simply that you care about the issue
  10. As the meeting ends, ask your MP to advise the Minister for Health about your concerns. Ask them to commit to doing so and to report back when they have taken action
  11. Even if your MP does not support your position, being asked to justify their differing view is a valuable and fundamental part of the democratic process
  12. Make sure your MP honours their commitments to you. If you don’t hear anything within a month, give their office a call or write to ask them whether they have taken the action they committed to take. Once again, persistence is the key

Elements of this page have been adapted from advice originally written by the RACP and Oxfam Australia.