10 August 2021

Pharmacy Guild wants college status

RACGP TheHill

The peak body for business owners wants a seat at the table in directing the next decade of primary care.


The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is continuing its creep into clinical territory with a submission to a plan that could determine the future direction of general practice. 

In a recent response to the draft advice from the Primary Health Reform Steering Group, the Guild asked to have representation alongside peak medical colleges such as the RACGP, AMA and ACRRM.

In its submission, the Guild requested to not only to be recognised as a primary health care provider, but to be included in the list of “professional colleges” integral to the government’s Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan.

“The Guild makes the following recommendations: … 5. That the Pharmacy Guild of Australia be included in the list of ‘professional colleges’, as an organisation that is committed to development of The 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan, and represents the network of community pharmacies that is a key primary health care provider,” it says.  

But RACGP president Dr Karen Price said that the college had significant concerns with pharmacists push to be more involved in patient diagnostics and treatment.

“The RACGP recognises the important role pharmacists have in supporting patient healthcare through procuring, advising and dispensing medicines,” she told The Medical Republic.

“We are aware of the expertise in the treat and refer model of care for minor ailments that pharmacists are taught.

“However, we do have significant concerns with moves to expand the role of community pharmacies beyond their core role.

“The critical issue is that primary care is strong when it is united on patient care and a fragmented primary care sector is not good for patient care.”

The Guild makes up just one of more than 170 submissions that were made in response to the steering group’s draft report, released in June. 

It’s a group the RACGP has held a central voice in – first with the late president Dr Harry Nespolon and now Dr Price, since it was established in 2019.

But the RACGP did not condone the Guild’s push to make continued dispensing arrangements, originally expanded during the 2019-20 bushfires, permanent.

The community pharmacy lobby group also pushed for minor ailments to be attended to in pharmacies, with provisions being made for pharmacists to order relevant pathology and deliver diagnosis.

The Guild cited international examples such as the Community Pharmacy Common Ailment Service in the UK, where this service is somewhat integrated with other health providers.

“There are international examples of community pharmacy assisting individuals to self-manage their common ailments or be referred when assessed as more serious,” said the Guild.

Dr Price said the submission consisted of obvious attempts from the Guild to have pharmacists advise patients and provide diagnostics for care, not unlike the recent UTI trial in Queensland. 

“The management of some minor injuries and ailments and ordering laboratory tests involves complex decision making and [the] ability to create a differential diagnosis list – which might include a physical examination,” she said.

“The call for pharmacists to deliver these types of services in rural areas is not in the best interests of patients and builds a two-tiered access to primary healthcare.”

Dr Price said the RACGP supported access to high quality general practice care right across Australia, where nobody missed out due to their postcode. 

“We support working with pharmacists for high quality medicines management and in a team care patient centred model,” she said.

Some of the care options detailed in the Guild’s submission could lead to the further fragmentation of primary care in Australia, which would only be counterproductive to the goals of the Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan.

“We support not fragmenting primary care and want to ensure that diagnosis is not delayed, particularly [for those] with serious conditions,” Dr Price said.