GP rejects strategy
The Victorian Government last week asked for expressions of interest from pharmacists and GPs to participate in the new Pharmacist Chronic Disease Management pilot program, but one Seymour GP has already branded it a risky strategy.
The pilot program will see pharmacists and GPs work closely together to help patients manage their chronic illnesses and medication.
But many GPs, who are funded by the Federal Government, are unlikely to be happy with a program that potentially takes paying patients away from them in a similar manner to flu vaccination schemes, where nurses administer injections offsite and obviate the need for a doctor’s appointment.
Through the chronic disease pilot, eligible patients will be able to visit their local pharmacist to monitor chronic conditions and manage medications under the direction of their GP’s care plan.
Seymour Medical Clinic’s Dr Rob Peterson responded to the pilot program plan with disquiet.
‘‘Chronic disease needs to be managed by GPs who can make appropriate medication and treatment changes after taking account of the full patient history, including pathology results, specialist reports and individual responses,’’ Dr Peterson said.
‘‘Involving pharmacists in medical management adds another layer of services that will create confusion and increase risk to the patient.’’
Dr Rosey Panelli, the general practice management consultant at Seymour Medical Clinic and a researcher working in the area of chronic disease, was more outspoken.
‘‘This proposal is yet another strategy that could undermine Australian health care rather than improve it,’’ Dr Panelli said.
‘‘To build healthy communities we need to promote continuity of care. Patients deserve the opportunity to build long-term and trusting relationships with a GP and a medical clinic.’’
Acting Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said more than 87 per cent of Victorians live within 2.5 km of a pharmacy, and the pilot program would give people with chronic diseases a convenient option to access the care and treatment they need.
‘‘By using the skills of our highly trained pharmacists to deliver primary care we’re helping take pressure off our hospitals and better meet the challenges of rising rates of chronic disease,’’ Ms Mikakos said.
Ms Mikakos said more than half of all visits to GPs now involve the management of at least one chronic condition.
Many of these visits concern renewing prescriptions or making dose adjustments, rather than diagnosing new conditions.
She said by expanding the role of pharmacists in collaboration with GPs, families would have a new convenient option to access the healthcare they need, when they need it and close to home.
Dr Panelli said it was time Australian health policy makers stopped throwing out random suggestions about how to improve the health care system with one hand while taking away resources and respect from general practice with the other.
‘‘We live in an era when many changes in society and in the delivery of medical services threaten to break down what was once a strong and valued primary care system,’’ Dr Panelli said.
‘‘Policies that promote fragmentation of care are ineffective and dangerous.
‘‘Pharmacists and GPs have a long history of working together to assist their patients. However, taking medical services out of the clinic where patient have their history of care, and putting them into a retail setting, is not a positive step for patients and it will create confusion in a system which is becoming increasingly complex.
‘‘Australian general practice has good foundations. We need to value and support the work that is done there. We need to encourage and protect it before it has been weakened beyond recovery.’’
The 18-month pilot program will be implemented in one metropolitan and two rural locations. Eligible locations have been identified as areas with an increased prevalence of chronic disease that would most benefit from the initiative.