Welcome to our first newsletter for 2022. We cover important practice matters as well as general Board information and National Scheme news.
Pharmacists have faced extraordinary challenges as they responded to the needs of their communities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as natural disasters. I acknowledge the significant efforts of pharmacists across Australia in adapting to the changing environment and continuing to provide exceptional service to the public.
Lately, there has been a lot of discussion and reporting in the media about options for pharmacist prescribing in the future. The Board thought it was timely to look back on the work that it completed in October 2019, when it explored any regulatory action that might be required by the Board if states and territories were to authorise pharmacists to prescribe. See below for more details.
If you are on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register you can now opt in to extend your temporary registration before it expires, to keep supporting the pandemic response. For information on what you must do by 5 April 2022, read more below.
I also welcome Dr Amy Page to the Board. She has been appointed by Health Ministers as the practitioner member for Victoria.
Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia
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Assessing the competence of intern pharmacists seeking general registration is an important public safeguard. The Board, in collaboration with Ahpra, is continually assessing the public health risks of COVID-19 and the potential impact on the Board’s oral examination. As COVID-19 continues to be an issue, our priority is the safety of everyone involved: candidates, examiners and staff.
The Board’s oral examination was made available online for the exam sittings in February/March 2022. Secure delivery of the exam via the internet meant that interns were able to sit the exam online in their home or workplace.
Where interns were affected by other events such as the flooding in New South Wales and Queensland, the oral examination was postponed and rescheduled.
During these uncertain times, we aim to provide flexibility for intern pharmacists to continue to sit the oral examination.
For further information on the registration examination please visit the Internships page.
On behalf of the Board and Ahpra, I thank all the pharmacists who take on the important role of a Board examiner. The role of an examiner requires expertise in pharmacy practice as well as proficiency in communication. Every year, experienced pharmacists give up their valuable time to help examine our new pharmacists. We appreciate their inspiring commitment to help us assess the competence of intern pharmacists seeking general registration.
In November 2021, current examiners were invited to complete a survey to help the Board and Ahpra understand the experience of the examiners involved in the Board oral examinations of October 2021 and, where possible, improve that experience during future examinations. The survey responses identified some areas where changes could be made to improve the examiner experience, particularly when delivering online examinations. Some immediate changes were implemented for the February 2022 examinations.
Thank you to all examiners for your valuable contribution to the Board’s oral examination; your continued involvement is greatly appreciated.
With ongoing interest in the potential for pharmacist prescribing to contribute to public healthcare in a time of evolving need, the Board thought it was timely to remind pharmacists and stakeholders of its extensive work exploring pharmacist prescribing, and its conclusions.
Over the last few years, some states and territories have explored the capacity of pharmacists to prescribe and various proposals have been developed and trialled in various practice settings and locations. These initiatives are developed and delivered independently of the Board. Given that the role of the Board is to regulate pharmacists while keeping the public safe, when invited, it has provided advice on such initiatives in the public interest.
Under the National Law, the Board is responsible for ensuring that only competent pharmacists are registered and for regulating pharmacists in the public interest. Authorisation to prescribe medicines is set out in state and territory medicines and poisons legislation. Granting authorisation to pharmacists in Australia to prescribe would require independent decisions by state and territory governments to change their legislation.
Over a period of four years, the Board explored the potential for pharmacist prescribing in Australia, what that would entail, including any regulatory role that the Board might have. In October 2019, this work culminated in the publication of the Board’s position statement on three models of pharmacist prescribing as defined by the Health Professionals Prescribing Pathway 2013 (HPPP).
In its position statement, the Board stated:
Under the National Law, the Board has no regulatory barriers in place for pharmacists to prescribe via a structured prescribing arrangement or under supervision within a collaborative healthcare environment. However, prescribing under these models requires changes in state and territory medicines and poisons legislation to authorise pharmacists to prescribe and these are matters to be determined by state and territory governments.
The Board’s view is that autonomous prescribing by pharmacists requires additional regulation via an endorsement for scheduled medicines. This would require the Board to make an application to the Ministerial Council for approval of endorsement for scheduled medicines under section 14 of the National Law and to develop a registration standard for endorsement of registration. An application could only occur after completion of preparatory work to develop a case proposing the need for an endorsement as outlined in the Ahpra Guide.1 The Board is not making an application for approval of endorsement for scheduled medicines at this time.
Any proposals to develop safe, effective and sustainable pharmacist prescribing models that successfully meet the public’s healthcare needs requires input from, and collaboration between, pharmacists, other health professionals, healthcare service providers, educators, regulators, governments and most importantly, the recipients of healthcare, the public.
The Board’s website includes further information on:
1 Ahpra Guide for National Boards developing submissions under the AHMAC Guidance for National Boards: Applications to the Ministerial Council for approval of endorsements in relation to scheduled medicines under section 14 of the National Law.
The supervised practice period or 'intern year' marks a significant milestone in the journey of pharmacy graduates as they move from the education environment into the workplace. Every year more than 1,200 pharmacy graduates enter the internship year in which they apply the knowledge gained during academic studies to pharmacy practice. Interns make an important contribution to the provision of pharmacy services to the community, under the supervision of preceptors and other pharmacists who play vital roles in supporting interns to become competent pharmacists.
The Board and the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) have developed a set of workplace-based assessment tools to help preceptors and supervising pharmacists in the work they do to mentor, advise and train intern pharmacists. These tools were developed following finalisation of the Intern Year Assessment Blueprint, which sets out the preferred intern assessment options, including assessment in the workplace. They can be incorporated into workplace intern training programs in diverse pharmacy settings and include user guides and a variety of short assessment templates.
You can download the tools and associated guidance documents from the APC website at Intern Workplace-based Assessment | Australian Pharmacy Council.
APC is working closely with intern training program (ITP) providers to integrate the tools into the supervised practice period and to support preceptors and interns to use them. ITP providers will inform interns and preceptors when these workplace-based assessment tools will be introduced this year.
The Pharmacy Board thanks the expert working group, chaired by Professor Lloyd Sansom, who provided technical advice during the development of the tools. Special thanks to the pharmacists and interns who participated in consultations and volunteered to trial the tools while continuing to serve patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the year, on behalf of the Board, APC is collecting feedback from preceptors and interns on their experiences in using the tools.
You can reach the APC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On 20 December 2021, the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council (the Ministerial Council) announced new appointments and reappointments across the National Boards.
Appointments and reappointments made to the Pharmacy Board of Australia are:
The communiqué announcing National Board appointments is published on the Ahpra website.
Dr Cameron Phillips, practitioner member from SA, was first appointed to the Pharmacy Board in 2018 and is serving his second term of three years. Having worked across several areas of pharmacy practice such as community pharmacy (metro and regional), indigenous pharmacy, hospital and research, Cameron brings a diverse range of experience to the Board.
Cameron feels that his community and hospital pharmacy experience has taught him about the important role of the pharmacist in primary care as well as the challenges presented by complex treatment regimens for sick patients when they are at their most vulnerable. He also takes an active role in mentoring pharmacists in hospital practice.
‘In my current role I have integrated, upskilled and mentored many pharmacists in hospital practice, and I really enjoy seeing pharmacists grow and develop to become better professional versions of themselves.’
Cameron has served on each of the Board’s committees over the past four years and is the current Chair of the Registration and Examinations Committee (REC). The REC considers applications for registration from pharmacists renewing their registration, interns, pharmacists returning to practice in Australia, as well as overseas qualified pharmacists.
‘As the Australian borders are now open, we will continue to see more returning Australian-qualified pharmacists as well as overseas-qualified pharmacists seeking registration in Australia. We have an important role in considering these applications to ensure we protect the public and to enable these pharmacists to contribute to the workforce.’
The COVID-19 pandemic required the Board to consider alternative ways of providing the oral examination to ensure the safety of candidates and examiners while helping interns transition to general registration. The Board worked with Ahpra to enable delivery of the oral examination via an online platform, a process that was not without challenges.
Cameron acknowledged the importance of the oral exam. ‘We need to keep looking at innovation to ensure the written and oral exams continue to assess all the core areas required for safe practice, in combination with the Intern Year Assessment Blueprint. The blueprint underpins effective and appropriate assessment of pharmacy interns, including at the workplace.'
Looking to the future, Cameron thinks the profession will continue to face challenges as pharmacy practice changes and the Board will engage extensively about its future regulatory work with a broad range of groups including the community, professional associations, pharmacists, regulators and government. The Board will continue to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the public by ensuring pharmacists are competent and fit to practise.
Pharmacists on the 2020 pandemic response sub-register can now opt in to extend their temporary registration before it expires to keep supporting the pandemic response.
Ahpra and National Boards are acutely aware that our health system still needs help as it continues to deal with increased healthcare demands and workforce challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practitioners on the 2020 sub-register are being contacted by Ahpra before their temporary registration expires on 5 April 2022 about the options available to stay registered, which would take effect from 6 April 2022. There is no obligation involved.
For more information and how to opt in or apply, see the news item.
The Pharmacy Board and other National Boards are aware that many English language tests have been temporarily disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and applicants for registration may have had difficulty accessing tests.
Acknowledging the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19, National Boards have approved a temporary policy position that means the following English language tests will be accepted for applications open or received from 21 February 2022:
All other requirements as set out in the Pharmacy Board’s English language skills registration standard will still apply, please see the English language skills FAQs for more information. There are no changes to any other requirements in the standards such as minimum test scores.
For more information and links, see the news item.
The Board’s registration data report for 1 October to 31 December 2021 is now available. At this date, there were 35,940 registered pharmacists in Australia. Of these:
The 1,950 pharmacists who are part of the short-term pandemic response sub-register are included in the general registration figure.
Of the registered pharmacists:
The data below shows the percentage of registered pharmacists by their principal place of practice.
The table below shows the number of registrants by age group.
For more data, visit our Statistics page.
Between 1 October 2021 and 30 September 2022, pharmacists (except those holding non-practising registration) are required to have achieved at least 40 CPD credits in accordance with the Board’s Registration standard: Continuing professional development (CPD registration standard) and Guidelines on continuing professional development (CPD guidelines).
The CPD registration standard also requires that all pharmacists develop an annual CPD plan, which helps identify areas in need of further development. Periodic review and amendment (if required) of your CPD plan will help you to reflect on whether the activities you completed enabled you to achieve these goals. This may lead you to target additional CPD activities to address your professional development needs.
On its website, the Board has published frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the annual CPD requirements and a blank template CPD plan/record to help you develop and maintain your own CPD plan and record your activities. Pharmacy professional organisations and CPD providers may also have useful resources.
Some pharmacists had difficulty meeting the recency of practice requirements in 2021 because of the national COVID-19 emergency.
Make sure you take the necessary action to meet the requirements of the Board’s Registration standard: Recency of practice (ROP registration standard) ahead of renewing your registration at the end of 2022.
If you haven’t completed the minimum practice requirement of 150 hours in the last 12 months OR 450 hours in the last three years in Australia or New Zealand in your intended scope of practice before renewing your general registration by 30 November 2022, you may be required to do supervised practice and demonstrate competence by completing an assessment.
We regularly publish court and tribunal summaries for their educational value for the profession. Links to past and recent tribunal cases can be found on the Board’s Pharmacy regulation at work: tribunal decisions page. Here is a recent tribunal case.
A tribunal has suspended a pharmacist for six months following findings of professional misconduct after she was convicted of charges of supplying Schedule 4 poisons (codeine-containing analgesics and diazepam) to one patient over a three-and-a-half-year period.
Read more in the news item.
Recently, there’s been some debate about protected titles and how they work to protect the public. Ahpra and the National Boards provide the following guidance to help inform the discussion.
In Australia, the titles of registered health professions are 'protected' by law. This is important because they can act as shorthand for patients and consumers. When someone uses a protected title (for example, ‘pharmacist'), you can expect that person is appropriately trained and qualified in that profession, registered in Australia, and that they are expected to meet safe and professional standards of practice.
The protected titles under the National Law can be accessed on the Ahpra FAQs page.
Medicine, dentistry and podiatry also have approved specialist titles for their professions. This means that a practitioner who uses these titles to describe themselves has additional training and qualifications in a specialty field. For example, a podiatrist who has additional training and qualifications in podiatric surgery and meets the requirements for specialist registration can use the protected title ‘podiatric surgeon’.
Health Ministers are currently consulting on whether ‘surgeon’ should be a protected title under the National Law, and in what specialties it should apply, or if other changes should be made to help the public better understand the qualifications of medical practitioners. For more information on the consultation, visit: https://engage.vic.gov.au/medical-practitioners-use-title-surgeon-under-national-law.
Read the news item for more details on this topic.
The public consultation for the Independent review of the regulation of health practitioners in cosmetic surgery is now open. The review, commissioned by Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia, is being led by former Queensland Health Ombudsman Andrew Brown, supported by an expert panel.
The review is particularly interested in understanding whether there are any barriers to consumers, practitioners or their employees raising concerns about unsafe practice or unsatisfactory outcomes.
The consultation ends on 14 April 2022.
Read the news item for more details.
Ahpra’s Taking care podcast has released new episodes.
The first episode of Taking care for 2022 is a powerful and honest conversation about family violence and the role of health practitioners in helping survivors. Read more about the podcast and follow the link to listen.
What is the best approach to support a practitioner’s professional practice to ensure patient safety? How do we regulate when honest errors occur in a workplace environment? Read more about the podcast and follow the link to listen.
Ahpra releases a new Taking care episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. Download and listen today. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.