Pharmacy Board of Australia - December 2020
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December 2020

Issue 27 - December 2020

Chair’s message

Welcome to the final newsletter for 2020 from the Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board). See our updates on important topics such as changes to the Board’s registration examination, practice advice and registration renewal.

Renewal of registration closed on 30 November with a late renewal period open until 31 December 2020, after which your name will be removed from the register. If you have not yet renewed, we urge you to do so. 

We know this year has been particularly difficult for many pharmacists and their families coping with the impact of COVID-19. There have been many changes in the way we interact in our professional and personal lives. What is clear is the tremendous effort of pharmacists and their staff in responding to the needs of the community in extraordinary circumstances.

As this challenging year draws to a close, on behalf of the Board I wish you all a safe and happy festive season and all the best for 2021.

Brett Simmonds

Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia

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Board news

Vaccination survey: help your state or territory with its COVID-19 response

The Board and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) are asking pharmacist immunisers to complete a survey about their vaccination training.

The information gathered from the survey will help state, territory and Commonwealth health departments with preparations for a potential Australia-wide rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, pharmacists who have completed the locally required immunisation training are able to administer the vaccines authorised in the state or territory where they practise without the need for the vaccine to be individually prescribed.

At present there is no central database of pharmacist immunisers – this survey will be used to develop a database.

Pharmacist immunisers and pharmacists currently completing immunisation training are invited to participate in this short survey which should take 3-5 minutes to complete.

Important information about the survey

The Board and Ahpra will share your response to the survey (including your contact details) with the Commonwealth and state or territory health department in which you practise. Health departments may use the information to plan and implement arrangements to carry out a COVID-19 vaccination program, including to contact eligible pharmacists regarding those arrangements.

Health departments may engage third parties to help with this and may disclose your information to those third parties for that purpose, in a way that protects your privacy.

Please note:

  • This survey is voluntary; there is no requirement from the Board or Ahpra for you to complete it.
  • All information collected will be treated confidentially.
  • Data collected will only be used for the purposes described above.

Please complete the survey by 21 December 2020 using this link.

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Changes to the Board registration examination for interns from 2021

Changes to the Board’s registration examination for general registration are set to take effect on 1 January 2021.

To be eligible for general registration, interns must pass the registration examination. This comprises a written examination and oral examination delivered on behalf of the Board by the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) respectively.

Effective as of 1 January 2021:

  • the written examinations and the oral examinations will be held three times a year according to the existing oral examination schedule (to be held in February, June and October)
  • entry to the written examination and the oral examination will be granted to candidates who have completed 75 per cent of the approved supervised practice hours required for general registration by the date of the examinations
  • successful completion of the written examination will no longer be an eligibility requirement for entry into the oral examination, and candidates may sit either or both examinations during the same exam period, and
  • the duration of the written examination will be reduced from three hours to two hours while the oral examination will be reduced from four parts (with a total duration of 45 minutes) to three parts (taking 35 minutes).

To successfully complete the registration examination candidates must pass the oral and written examinations within a consecutive 18-month period.

Information about the written examination is available on the APC website and information about the oral examination is available on the Board’s website.

For more information and FAQs about the changes please read the news item.

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2019/20 annual report now published: regulating during a pandemic

The Ahpra and National Boards’ 2019/20 annual report was released on 12 November 2020.

The report provides a nationwide snapshot of the regulatory work of Ahpra and the National Boards, including the response to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read more about the annual report in the news item.

A pharmacy-specific statistical summary and a report from the Chair that covers the work of the Board over the 12 months to 30 June 2020 is also now available on our website. The summary draws on data from the annual report. 

This information provides a snapshot of the pharmacy profession as at 30 June 2020, and includes the number of registered pharmacists, a breakdown by gender and age and outcomes of practitioner audits. Pharmacy-specific data tables are also available for downloading.

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Students and graduates

About to start your internship? What you need to know for provisional registration as a pharmacist

If you have just completed the final year of your pharmacy program and are about to start your internship, we encourage you to read the article above about the changes to the registration examination in 2021.

If you have secured your supervised practice site but haven’t yet applied for its approval and for provisional registration, you should lodge your applications using the online services portal now. Once you have checked the public register to confirm that you hold provisional registration and that your supervised practice arrangements have been approved you can start your supervised practice hours.

You may also find it useful to review the information provided on the Board’s Internships page. Here you will find the Intern pharmacist and preceptor guide, resources for the preparation of extemporaneous products required during your internship, the Pharmacy oral examination (practice) candidate guide and other useful information.

Intern training plans and other useful resources

If you and your preceptor haven’t developed a training program, you can get advice from intern training program providers. The Board’s Internships page also provides sample intern training plans that can be used as a guide in the preparation of an intern training plan.

Other useful resources on our website include the Board’s registration standards, Code of conduct and guidelines for pharmacists.

If you are unclear about who does what in the pharmacy profession, the Board has published a diagram of the different pharmacy regulators and stakeholders in Australia. This diagram provides an overview of the role of the Board and other regulators and pharmacy stakeholder organisations and a short summary of their functions and/or responsibilities.

Professional indemnity insurance

Don’t forget to ensure that you are covered by professional indemnity insurance that meets the Board’s Registration standard: Professional indemnity insurance arrangements. This may be your own cover or cover provided by your employer.

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Are students able to work in pharmacies before their internship begins?

Many students work part time in pharmacy while studying, which is a great way to gain knowledge and experience about practice. It is important that when working in pharmacy you only carry out tasks assigned by the supervising pharmacists.

Before assigning tasks, the responsible pharmacist must first be satisfied that you have the requisite knowledge, have received the training and guidance and that you are appropriately supervised, particularly if working in the dispensary. Students are a great support to pharmacists in providing pharmacy services to the public. Always check in with the supervising pharmacist to ensure you have the information, guidance and support that you need while working.

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Renew online to avoid lapsed registration

Pharmacists who did not apply to renew their registration by 30 November must renew in December to avoid lapsed registration. Those who apply to renew their registration during the December late period will incur an additional late fee.

Under the National Law, registered health practitioners are responsible for renewing their registration on time each year. If you do not renew online by 31 December 2020 you will have lapsed registration and will not be able to practise. You must make a new application for registration and can only practise once general registration is confirmed.

About to finish your internship? What you need to know about applying for general registration

Once you have completed your approved supervised practice (usually 1,824 hours which the Board reduced to 1,575 hours for interns affected by the COVID-19 pandemic), intern training program, passed the registration examination (comprising the written examination and the oral examination) and your approved supervised practice hours have been signed off, you can apply for general registration.

If you currently hold provisional registration you can apply for general registration online through Ahpra’s online services portal using your User ID.

You will need to provide evidence of successful completion of:

  • your approved intern training program, and
  • your approved supervised practice hours (see the news item about arrangements that apply during the pandemic).

You don’t need to provide your oral and written examination results as, Ahpra will already have them.

You can continue to practise as a pharmacist under supervision while you hold provisional registration. You are registered and entitled to practise unsupervised when you have been granted general registration and your details have been updated and published on the Register of practitioners.

Read the information on the Board’s website to find out more about transitioning from provisional to general registration.

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Latest workforce data released

Registration data for the period 1 July to 30 September 2020 is now available. It shows that at this date, there were 34,580 registered pharmacists in Australia. Of these, 31,794 had general registration, 1,801 had provisional registration and 970 had non-practising registration.

The 1,952 pharmacists that are part of the short-term pandemic response sub-register are included in the number of pharmacists holding general registration.

For more data, including registrant numbers by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page.

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Practice advice

Electronic prescriptions

Electronic prescriptions are increasingly becoming available across Australia. Electronic prescribing has been enabled across greater Melbourne and in Canberra and is being rolled out across Greater Sydney and Victoria. Electronic prescriptions will not fundamentally change existing prescribing and dispensing processes but will provide patients with greater choice.

You are still required to adhere to relevant state or territory regulations and any other relevant legislation when dispensing and supplying medicines using an electronic prescription. We also remind you to comply with the professional practice standards and practice guidelines published by pharmacy member organisations and the Board’s Guidelines for dispensing of medicines.

The Australian Digital Health Agency has published a number of podcasts on electronic prescrptions as well as free eLearning courses for dispensers. For more information visit the Electronic prescriptions page on its website.

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New case study published

The Board publishes case studies to help pharmacists understand and meet their professional and legal obligations. A new case study was published this month:

Practising while unregistered

It was alleged that the pharmacist practised while unregistered for a period of approximately four months. Read more on the Board’s Case studies page.

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Regulation at work

Latest court and tribunal cases

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 Pharmacy regulation at work: tribunal decisions page on the Board’s website. Here is a recent tribunal case.

Pharmacist reprimanded for self-dispensing without valid prescriptions

A Perth pharmacist has been reprimanded and has had her registration suspended for two months by the State Administrative Tribunal after admitting that she had engaged in professional misconduct. Read more in the news item.

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National Scheme news

New podcast episode – Ahpra’s leadership discusses its role in public safety

In the latest Taking care podcast episode, Ahpra’s leaders sit down to discuss the role and challenges of regulating practitioners and protecting the public.

Host Susan Biggar is joined by Chair of Aphra’s Agency Management Committee and CEO of Mind Australia, Gill Callister PSM, and Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher.

They speak about the challenges of health regulation, including community awareness about reporting concerns about health practitioners. Ensuring that health practitioners are treated fairly and respectfully throughout the process is also a priority. They also discuss the challenge of identifying and prioritising access for vulnerable communities.

Mr Fletcher talks about Ahpra’s focus on patient safety being part of a bigger picture for keeping the public safe. ‘One of the things that’s really important when we think about the role of Ahpra and the National Boards in public protection is the question of how we work as part of the wider health system,’ he said.

We also want to encourage greater community understanding of Ahpra’s public resources, including the public register of practitioners.

Download and listen to the latest Ahpra Taking care podcast episode today. Ahpra releases a new episode every fortnight, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

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Revised advertising guidelines are now in effect

Health practitioners are encouraged to check and correct their advertising to make sure it complies with revised guidelines, which took effect on 14 December 2020.

The National Boards and Ahpra have jointly revised the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service (the guidelines) as part of a scheduled review in line with good regulatory practice. 

The guidelines aim to help registered health practitioners, and other advertisers, advertise responsibly so that the public receives accurate and clear information about regulated health services.

Changes to the guidelines include:

  • more content about testimonials, protected titles and claims about registration, competence and qualifications
  • new content about the evidence required for claims about the effectiveness of a regulated health service and what is acceptable evidence
  • restructuring of content so that information is easier to find, and
  • new flowcharts to help assess when advertising needs to be supported by acceptable evidence and whether a review is considered a testimonial.

The National Boards and Ahpra have also updated the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme following an evaluation in 2019. The strategy was launched in 2017 to improve voluntary compliance with the advertising requirements and to introduce a new enforcement approach to non-compliance.

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Resetting our approach to investigations

National Boards and Ahpra stand for safe, professional healthcare practice.

All health practitioners and the workplaces at which they practise have roles to play in ensuring public safety. We are improving the way we manage our regulatory investigations about practitioners to better account for our collective responsibilities.

We know that the public are best protected when we support practitioners and their employers to improve safety and professionalism in the delivery of health services. Our efforts and resources should better focus on matters where there are gaps in safe practice that create ongoing risk to the public.

Our revised approach, in place now, aims to improve the experience of notifiers and practitioners by completing most investigations faster. There is a stronger focus on speaking directly to the practitioner. This is so we can gather early information about the practitioner’s individual practice, reflection and their actions in response to notified events. This is key to:

  • closing concerns about low risk practitioners faster, and
  • concentrating our investigations on practitioners that represent higher risk.

Practitioners can help with this by:

  • engaging the supports they need through the process, including indemnifiers and/or professional associations and colleges
  • providing Ahpra with the information it needs as early as possible, and
  • giving their employer permission to share information about them with Ahpra to help validate what the practitioner has told us.

We also want to understand what a practitioner’s workplace has done in response to the events.

The level of information we need to gather is more wide ranging when the concerns raised could constitute professional misconduct. This includes boundary violations, criminal and unethical behaviour, and significant departure from acceptable standards.

The National Board will take action in response to a concern, when the actions of an individual practitioner and/or their workplaces are not sufficient, to ensure we can prevent the same thing happening again.

More information is available on Ahpra’s Concerns about practitioners page.

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Inaugural strategy to increase our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce

Ahpra marked NAIDOC Week 2020 by releasing our inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy 2020-2025 (the Employment Strategy).

The goal of the Employment Strategy is to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation within Ahpra through the development of a culturally safe work environment that reflects the diversity of the communities in which we operate and serve. It is a major component of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020–2025, which aims to improve cultural safety, increase workforce participation, strive for greater access and close the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians.

The Employment Strategy contains five priority areas to help achieve our goal:

  • build a sustainable talent pipeline through attraction and recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates
  • implement programs and culturally safe work practices which foster the retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees
  • invest in developing the capabilities and careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, including representation in leadership and senior roles
  • develop culturally safe workplaces through education and culturally safe work practices, and
  • know the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce throughout Ahpra to encourage their engagement in the rollout of the Employment Strategy and achievement of its goals.

The Employment Strategy recognises the need to build the cultural capability of all Ahpra employees to enable a proactive and leadership approach. We have an opportunity to address systemic challenges now by investing in and nurturing long-term relationships. We encourage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to seek employment and a career with Ahpra.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Pharmacy Board website for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQs. Visiting the website regularly is the best way to stay in touch with news and updates from the Board.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • To update your contact details for important registration renewal emails and other Board updates, go to the Ahpra website: Update contact details.
  • Address mail correspondence to: Brett Simmonds, Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 26/09/2023