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Doctors keep the nation’s trust

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Doctors are among the most trusted and well regarded professionals in the country, on a par with pharmacists and just behind nurses in public regard, according to a survey.

Doctors scored a rating of 86 per cent in the annual Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2014, a 2 percentage point drop from the previous year but equal second with pharmacists and behind nurses (91 per cent), who have consistently topped the poll since being included in 1994.

The result, based on a telephone survey of 644 people aged 14 years and older conducted early this month, confirms the medical professions good standing in the community.

Unsurprisingly, given unremitting coverage of child abuse scandals and inquiries, ministers of religion suffered the biggest fall from grace, their rating plunging 7 percentage points to 37 per cent – their lowest-ever reading since first being included in the survey in 1996.

The reputation of union leaders has also taken a battering. Revelations of corruption and allegations of bullying and industrial standover tactics have helped drive their rating down to 12 per cent – putting them on par with federal and state MPs and just ahead of real estate agents, advertisers and car salesmen.

Overall, it has been a tough year for the professions. Of the 30 occupations included in the survey, more than half suffered a loss of reputation, while just 10 enhanced their status – the biggest jump a 5 percentage point gain by bank managers to 43 per cent.

The findings could buttress the position of pharmacists as they push to expand their scope of practice to include administering vaccinations and possibly conducting regular health checks.

But the standing of pharmacists could be dented by revelations that vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur is financially supporting vaccination training for a chemist chain taking part in a vaccination trial.

The Herald Sun has revealed that the company, which makes two of the vaccines used in the controversial trial, is helping pay for the training of Terry White chain pharmacists.

The revelations have raised concerns about the trial, which is being conducted across several states.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton told the Herald Sun the financial arrangement was “extraordinary…it makes all the hairs stand up on the back of my neck”.

But a spokesman for Terry White Chemists said there was no financial incentive for participating pharmacies to use a particular brand of vaccine, insisting the choice was “free from influence”.

The AMA has warned that pharmacists have neither the skills nor knowledge to safely provide such services, which should be left in the hands of those medically qualified to provide them.

Adrian Rollins