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AMA puts vaccinating pharmacists on notice

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The AMA has stiffened its resistance to attempts by pharmacists, nurses and other health professionals to exceed the limits of their training and encroach on areas of medical practice.

The AMA National Conference endorsed a strongly-worded motion proposed by Dr Xavier Yu and Dr Stuart Day highlighting concerns that the push by several occupational groups to expand their scope of practice is happening without adequate scrutiny and is putting patients at risk.

The issue has leapt to national prominence after the Pharmacy Board of Australia late last year declared that it believe vaccination was within the current scope of practice of pharmacists, and the Queensland authorised a trial under which pharmacists were given authority to administer vaccinations.

Concerns have been fuelled by remarks earlier this year from Health Minister Peter Dutton in which he said he was willing to contemplate an expansion in the range of services pharmacists could provide.

“I don’t believe pharmacists want to be doctors, nor retailers,” the Minister told the Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference on 13 March. “[But] the time is right to commence a discussion about the future of pharmacy… so I am open to discussions about an agreement which pays for tangible services and interventions that will provide better patient outcomes.”

In the motion adopted by the AMA National Conference, it said it was “extremely concerned” that patient safety and quality of care had been put at risk by the expansion of roles of non-medical health practitioners into areas outside their range of expertise.

The National Conference has called on the AMA Federal Council to “demand that all Health Ministers ensure that non-medical health practitioner boards enforce limits on scope of practice to those validated by comprehensive assessment on education, training and competence”.

It said that Government should consult with the AMA on any proposals to substitute for the role of medical practitioners be rigorously assessed “to ensure the community continues to receive health care to the high standards they currently enjoy and deserve”.

Adrian Rollins