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GPs, pharmacists agree: let’s work together

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GPs and pharmacists will work much more closely together to improve patient care under arrangements being developed by the AMA and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

The AMA and the PSA have announced they are collaborating on ways to integrate pharmacists into GP-led primary care teams to improve the use of medicines and cut down the frequency of adverse drug events.

Already, some GPs and pharmacists are working more closely together with promising results, and the two professional organisations are seeking to draw on these experiences to provide a model for collaboration that could be adopted much more widely.

AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler said patients were presenting to GPs with increasingly complex and chronic conditions, and closer co-operation and co-ordination between doctors and pharmacists would improve care.

“With the growing burden of chronic disease, we are seeing patients with very complex medication therapies,” A/Professor Owler said. “By encouraging pharmacists to practise collaboratively with doctors in GP clinics, we will improve communication and assist in managing these complex medication regimens.”

The move toward greater co-operation has come despite occasionally testy relations between the professions as bodies such as the Pharmacy Guild of Australia have pushed for an expanded scope of practice for pharmacists, including conducting health checks and administering vaccinations – both ideas strongly opposed by the AMA.

But A/Professor Owler said it was important that GPs and pharmacists complement, rather than compete with, each other.

Both he and PSA Chief Executive Officer Dr Lance Emerson said that much closer co-operation between doctors and pharmacists would not only improve patient outcomes, but save precious health dollars.

It has been estimated that around 190,000 hospital admissions each year are as a result of adverse drug events that cause patients distress and cost the health system $660 million.

Both A/Professor Owler and Dr Emerson said it was important to ensure that the model for doctor-pharmacist collaboration was viable and sustainable for both, including appropriate funding parameters.

“We are working very closely to develop a model that produces the best outcomes for patients and health profe4ssionals while also providing long-term budgetary benefits for the Government,” A/Professor Owler said.

Adrian Rollins