Welcome to our first newsletter for 2023. The Board’s review of its registration standards and guidelines is well underway and we will start public consultation on our Guidelines on compounding of medicines shortly. I encourage you to have your say on this important document. You can read more about the review below.
On behalf of the Board, I thank all pharmacists who took part in our stakeholder event held in Melbourne on Wednesday 22 February 2023. We welcome these opportunities to engage with the profession and hear your views on current issues.
Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia
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Under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law), the Board must develop registration standards to be approved by health ministers and may also develop and approve codes and guidelines. When the Board develops a registration standard or a code or guideline it must ensure there is wide-ranging consultation about its content.
The Board has started reviewing its standards and guidelines in line with its commitment to do so at least every five years. There are several steps involved in the consultation process, as outlined in the Procedures page of the Ahpra website.
We have completed a preliminary stakeholder consultation on the Guidelines on compounding of medicines and plan to start public consultation next month. The consultation information will be published on the Board’s website on the Current consultations page and stakeholders will be notified when public consultation begins.
We encourage you to have your say once public consultation opens. The existing guidelines will remain in force until the completion and publication of revised guidelines.
On 22 February 2023, the Board hosted a stakeholder event in Melbourne attended by students, registered local community and hospital-based pharmacists, and pharmacy stakeholders. The evening included a panel discussion on emerging issues for the pharmacy profession.
The panellists were:
Discussion topics included prescribing by pharmacists, aged care pharmacists, scope of practice and workforce shortages.
We thank attendees and panellists for contributing to a robust discussion and a successful evening.
Another successful registration renewal period closed in December. Thanks to everyone who renewed on time and especially to those who got in early. While renewal is an annual reminder, it’s important to know that under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, you have obligations throughout the year.
In addition to renewing your registration every year, the following professional obligations apply to all registered health practitioners:
There are also some obligations that hopefully won’t apply to you, but it’s important to know about them in case they do:
There are forms to help you make these declarations when required − see the Common forms page on the Ahpra website.
You may have already noticed the refreshed design of our website homepage, which went live in February. The vibrant colour and images are designed to make the homepage more engaging, and dropdown menus at the top of each page should make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. Any links you had bookmarked will continue to work because all addresses for webpages, documents and forms remain the same.
Your thoughts on this change are important and all feedback is welcome. Please tell us what you think via this quick survey.
Dr Suzanne Martin is a practising veterinarian and a community member of the Board. A community member is a member of the public who is not a pharmacist, and who provides an important community perspective to Board discussions and decisions. Sue is in her second term as a Board member.
Sue initially became interested in the role of a Board member due to her representation on several animal ethics committees over the years. The committees were deliberately composed of members with different professional backgrounds and viewpoints, which Sue feels helps promote robust discussions. Sue always appreciated the different perspectives that community members brought to these committees, ensuring that community expectations are always brought to the fore and considered as part of the decision-making process.
‘The practice of pharmacy and the work of pharmacists has been very much of interest to me since I did my veterinary degree and as a community member I try to contribute to Board decisions in a way that reflects the viewpoint of consumers and the broader community. Having worked for most of my life in rural and remote communities (in Tasmania, Northern Territory, northern Western Australia and western New South Wales) I understand just how critical healthcare services are to these communities and some of the particular challenges they face as healthcare consumers. I think it is important that these viewpoints are considered as part of the Board's deliberations.’
During her time on the Board, Sue has developed a greater appreciation of pharmacists and the role they play in healthcare.
‘I think pharmacists, with their expert knowledge of medicines, play such an important role in ensuring safe health outcomes for patients. While I had a general understanding of the role of pharmacists, until working on the Board I did not realise how complex and demanding it was, in terms of constant attention to detail, processes, record keeping, workload pressures and communication challenges. It is certainly a very broad, unique and vital skill set.'
When asked about the Board’s contribution to public safety, Sue said that by developing registration standards and a code of conduct for pharmacists and overseeing complaints, the Board's regulatory role aims to prevent or minimise risks, errors and harm to patients and ensure consumers have access to safe, high-quality services.
Sue draws on the knowledge gained through formal leadership training such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors course and the Australian Rural Leadership Program, and the experience attained through various roles on other regulatory and advisory boards. She values honesty, integrity and adhering to the principles of natural justice, and applies these values in her role as a Board member.
Changes within the industry can mean that the Board’s guidelines need to be updated before a scheduled full review. The Board has published updated information in Guideline 12 of the Guidelines for dispensing of medicines as well as Guideline 1 of the Guidelines on practice-specific issues (List of reference texts for pharmacists).
Guideline 12 contains guidance for pharmacists on ensuring competence of dispensary assistants/technicians. While the Board does not regulate support staff, it is the responsibility of pharmacists and employers to make sure their staff are suitably skilled and prepared for their role, for example by completing suitable education and training programs.
Since these dispensing guidelines were published, there have been changes in qualification titles and codes, as well as units of competency that may be relevant for pharmacists to consider when employing and/or making arrangements for education and training for dispensary assistants/technicians. Details of the changes are set out in Appendix A of the guidelines.
Guideline 1 of the practice-specific guidelines has been updated to include changes to the titles of currently available reference texts, and Appendix A lists the minor amendments made.
While the Board’s guidelines are updated periodically, we recognise that changes affecting practice can emerge at any time. As issues arise, published guidance should be assessed and applied, and where necessary, we will publish updates in newsletters and on our website to help pharmacists deal with emerging issues in practice.
The Board’s latest quarterly registration data report covers the period 1 October to 31 December 2022. At this date there were 35,732 registered pharmacists, including 125 on the pandemic response sub-register. There are:
For further data breakdowns by division, age, gender and principal place of practice, visit the Board’s Statistics page to read the report.
We publish summaries of court and tribunal cases for their educational value to the profession.
A Victorian tribunal has cited protection of the public as its primary reason for cancelling the registration of a pharmacist who was found guilty of criminal offences relating to prescription medication and illicit drugs.
Read more in the news item.
A Western Australian pharmacist has been disqualified from applying for registration for three years after a tribunal found he had committed professional misconduct.
Are you a student wanting to find out more about good practice as a pharmacist?
The required standard of practice is set out in a range of important documents that together inform our expectations and understanding of good practice. These include:
A diagram showing the broad range of information that supports professional practice can be found on the Board’s Supporting professional practice page.
With this in mind, we want to highlight and encourage you to familiarise yourself with the profession’s Code of conduct. The code is an important document for pharmacists. It provides guidance about expected standards for practitioner behaviour and conduct. In defining these expectations, it helps to keep the public safe by supporting good patient care and delivery of services.
Download the Code of conduct and access other helpful resources including FAQs and case studies.
For new graduates the internship year is an exciting time, filled with new challenges and valuable learning opportunities. As a registered pharmacist, you are expected to be aware of and meet your obligations such as those set out in the Board’s registration standards for pharmacists and uphold the standards of the profession.
All registered pharmacists (except those holding non-practising registration) are required to meet the Board’s Continuing professional development registration standard. Learning and development continues throughout a pharmacist’s career. CPD is an important foundation of lifelong learning and helps pharmacists to maintain competence to practise.
You must meet the annual requirements (achieve a minimum of 40 CPD credits) during your 12-month internship period. You should plan your CPD and keep records in the same way as a pharmacist holding general registration. These records will be reviewed by your intern training program provider to confirm compliance with the Board’s registration standard and guidelines on CPD.
By now you may have a CPD plan in place and started to record CPD points. If you don’t have a plan yet, visit the Board’s website for useful information such as a recorded CPD webinar and a template for planning and recording your CPD.
For more information, review the Board’s CPD standard, CPD guidelines and FAQs on continuing professional development for pharmacists and pharmacy interns. The FAQs provide guidance on which activities from the intern training program (ITP) can be included as CPD.
While you hold provisional registration you are required to maintain the approved level of individual professional indemnity insurance (PII) cover while practising in accordance with the terms and conditions set under the Board’s PII registration standard.
Before you start an internship, you should confirm whether your employer’s policy covers your supervised practice and whether you need to take out a separate policy, including for any part-time work at other locations.
Ahpra has recently established a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Support team (the support team) to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants, registrants and stakeholders through the registration process.
The support team is part of Ahpra’s commitments to providing culturally safe services to its applicants, registrants and stakeholders.
The support team will focus on helping recent applicants and new graduates who have identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander on their application form. This applies to applicants across all 16 registered professions in the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.
The team’s one-on-one services range from providing helpful tips and tricks for navigating the registration process to regular phone contact, updates and advice on disclosures made on application (for example, impairments or previous criminal history) that may require consideration by the National Board.
The support team is committed to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners in all professions get registered or renewed promptly so they can focus on their contributions to safe healthcare and to their communities. Keep an eye out for regular emails from the team or reach out for help at email@example.com.
Members of the team will be attending community events and conferences relating to pharmacy practice, as well as the other professions.
If you are a student, contact your Indigenous Student Support Centre for information.
Building trust is fundamental to safe healthcare, as is responding effectively when a practitioner breaches that core responsibility to a patient. In Ahpra’s first Taking care podcast for the year we look at building trust in healthcare, how do we keep it, how can patients be better supported if things go wrong?
Rosalind Searle is a Professor of Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology at the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow. She is inaugural director of the European Association of Work and Organisational Psychology (EAWOP) Impact Incubator.
Pointing to examples in Australia, Professor Searle provides a guide for strengthening processes and support mechanisms to boost trust in healthcare.
Our latest podcast is Racism makes us sick, with Associate Professor Carmen Parter discussing the impact of racism in healthcare. She points to her nursing days when there were almost no Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander faces seen working on the hospital ward and very little time given to the health needs of Indigenous people.
She talks about the cultural safety work being done and the challenges to make these policies a reality in our healthcare system.
Assoc. Prof. Parter has also seen intentional and unintentional racism in the system, which she is committed to helping reform.
'Racism makes us sick. Discrimination of all forms impacts the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,’ she said.
'We've seen it. We’ve felt it. But now we actually have evidence to demonstrate that is the case, and it is now time for health policymakers and services to actually do something about discrimination or prejudiced practices in the workplace.’
In her work on Indigenous health and as a member of the Ahpra Board, Assoc. Prof. Parter is rolling out culturally safe policies across health and calling all to walk with her while tackling racism.
Our Taking care podcast series covers a wide range of current issues in patient safety and healthcare in conversation with health experts and other people in our community. Listen and subscribe by searching for Taking care in your podcast player (for example Apple Podcasts or Spotify), or listen on our website.
Click on the image below to visit the National Scheme's newsletter page. The next issue is coming soon, and you can subscribe on the webpage.