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20 January 2023

RACGP: Pharmacy Guild comments reveal true intentions

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has today said that the Pharmacy Guild’s true intentions for the future of the sector are nothing short of alarming and that the nation’s leaders should wake up to what is happening.

It comes following extraordinary comments* made by Pharmacy Guild President Trent Twomey at the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association Congress event in Canberra this week. In the speech Mr Twomey:

·    labelled GPs “twits” and said that greater funding was not required for general practice

·    reportedly made the unprecedented claim that pharmacists should be able to prescribe, dispense, administer, and review all medicines for all people

·    described as “bloody insulting” the idea that pharmacists should only prescribe medications when working in cohort with a medical practitioner and likened it to a “plumber needing to look over the shoulder of an electrician” when installing air-conditioning

·    stated that being able to prescribe, dispense, administer, and review medicines are not specialities and that “no one gives a shit”

·    described the nation’s health system as “stuffed”.

The RACGP and other health groups including the Australian Medical Association (AMA) have previously warned that experiments such as the North Queensland Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot are fragmenting care and leading to poorer patients health outcomes. The college also criticised the Queensland Government’s decision to extend the Urinary Tract Infection prescribing pilot and expressed strong concern that other jurisdictions, including New South Wales and Victoria, are following suit and handing more prescribing powers to pharmacists without due regard for patient safety and wellbeing.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said that Trent Twomey’s comments revealed what many healthcare experts have long suspected.

“The Pharmacy Guild is out of control,” she said.

“In this extraordinary speech, Trent Twomey has laid bare the Guild’s future intentions for their sector and the future of healthcare in Australia. According to them, the limits on pharmacy prescribing should be done away with.

“Describing the idea of pharmacists only having extended powers if working in cohort with trained medical professionals as ‘bloody insulting’ shows the true mindset of the Pharmacy Guild. In this speech, there is no mention of patient safety, it is all about exerting power and extending the role of pharmacy to maximise pharmacy owner profits at any cost.

“The speech is nothing short of astonishing, it should send a shiver down the spine of politicians everywhere. The language used, the brazen way he addresses very serious healthcare issues and the underlying arrogance informing this speech demonstrates that the Pharmacy Guild should be approached warily.”

Dr Higgins said that there may be worse to come.

“The Pharmacy Guild does not seem satisfied with many jurisdictions already extending the scope of pharmacy or speaking of plans to do so, they want more,” she said.

“He reportedly even said that pharmacists should be able to prescribe, dispense, administer, and review all types of medicines for all types of patients nation-wide. Let’s just pause for a moment and consider what he is suggesting here, which is pharmacists acting as quasi-GPs without any supervision treating a myriad of complex health conditions and prescribing the most serious of medications, including those with the potential to cause severe side-effects or lead to dependence.

“Part of the skill of general practice is knowing when not to prescribe. The Pharmacy Guild seems to think that everything can be fixed with a drug. Pharmacists just don’t have the expertise and training to perform the function of prescribing medications, that is a job that should be left to medical practitioners. Already, we have seen in Queensland many concerning incidents including a patient in their 50s being prescribed antibiotics for a presumed urinary tract infection who turned out to have a 15-centimetre pelvic mass. 

“One of the justifications frequently put forward by the Guild, including in this speech, for extending pharmacy powers is that there is a shortage of GPs. Let’s be clear, we do have a maldistribution of GPs in Australia and the college is fighting hard every day to address that. However, we should not go down the path of band-aid solutions including role substitution. Also, keep in mind that recent workforce data reveals a shortage of pharmacists too, so giving them more power doesn’t make sense.

“GPs have a good relationship with their local pharmacy colleagues, but we must be wary of money grabs from the Guild. Patient safety must come first.”

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