17 Apr 2020
COVID-19 is posing unprecedented challenges to the health system and wider community in Australia. As regulators, the Pharmacy Board of Australia and Ahpra must balance public safety with the need to enable practitioners to do what is needed to respond to COVID-19.
Public safety remains the primary focus of the Pharmacy Board of Australia. However, a national emergency requires pharmacists to meet extreme challenges, which Australia’s regulatory approach must accommodate.
In the current situation, we realise that you are under significant pressure to provide pharmacy services and we appreciate your efforts to support your intern during this time.
Interns play an important role in the pharmacy profession’s response to COVID-19 and will make a further, significant contribution to the profession once they gain general registration. The Board understands that internships and examinations may be affected by the current situation and we are making these issues a priority.
Interns are completing a very important final step in their journey to general registration as a pharmacist, one that ensures that they demonstrate competence to practise and meet the requirements for general registration. This provides the necessary safeguards to the public that they are ready to practise.
We understand that if your intern has been or may be affected by COVID-19 you are keen to know how the Board will respond. On 3 April 2019 the Board published preliminary advice about options for ongoing supervised practice if your intern is unable to attend your workplace due to COVID-19. We realise that there may be additional impacts such as illness and the need to self-isolate.
The Board will discuss these issues at its April 2020 meeting next week and look at options to vary the supervised practice requirements to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on interns, while supporting them to achieve the learning outcomes relevant to the intern year. This includes how many supervised practice hours will be required for interns to be eligible for general registration during 2020, and any alternatives to the other requirements outlined in the Board’s Registration standard: Supervised practice arrangements.
We will advise you by 30 April 2020 of the Board’s decisions, to give you the assurances you need.
We will also be writing to your intern to provide them with this information.
As we have previously advised, in collaboration with APC and Ahpra we are continually assessing the public health risks of COVID-19 and the potential impact on the Board’s written and oral examinations during 2020. Our announcement will also address arrangements for the examinations scheduled to take place during 2020 (in particular, exams scheduled before 30 June 2020) to provide clarity to interns and preceptors.
Since the emergence of COVID-19, we have regularly engaged with stakeholders to ensure we are aware of emerging issues and we will continue to do so. We will continue to publish updates and advise our stakeholders.
We appreciate your efforts to support the profession and the community during this difficult time and hope that you remain safe and well.
Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia