December 2021

Issue 31 - December 2021


Chair’s message

Welcome to the final newsletter for 2021 from the Pharmacy Board of Australia. See our updates on the 2020/21 Annual report, regulatory principles and practice advice.

In November 2021 we farewelled Board member Joy Hewitt. Joy has made significant contributions during her six years (two terms) on the Board and I thank her for her commitment to protecting the public during her time as a Board member. We expect to welcome a new member shortly and will provide details in our next newsletter.

Registration renewal closed on 30 November with a late renewal period up till 31 December 2021, after which your name will be removed from the register. If you have not yet renewed, we urge you to do so.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all pharmacists who have contributed to the health of people across Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. The last two years have been challenging and the pandemic is continuing to evolve. As this 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 2022.

Brett Simmonds

Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia

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Board news

Annual report: Registered health practitioner numbers grow

A continued growth in the registered health workforce is highlighted in Ahpra and National Boards’ Annual report 2020/21.

While it was another year dominated by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of regulation continued and adapted to the impacts of the pandemic. A particular aim was to ensure that students were able to graduate with sufficient clinical experience despite placement delays. National Boards also looked to greater flexibility in some regulatory requirements, while maintaining their focus on patient safety.

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 2021 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 2021, and includes the number of registered pharmacists, a breakdown by gender and age and outcomes of practitioner notifications. Pharmacy-specific data tables are also available for downloading.

Growth across the professions

As at 30 June 2021, there were 825,720 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions, 24,061 more than last year. This includes 26,595 health practitioners on the 2020 pandemic sub-register which offers a surge workforce for the health system response to COVID-19. Overall, 75% of registered practitioners are women.

Registered health practitioners have done exceptional work in very challenging times. It is very encouraging to see the continued growth in the number of health practitioners over the past year.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation

Only 106 (0.3%) pharmacists and 8,311 (1.1%) of all health practitioners identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. This is well short of the 3.3% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in the general population.

Ahpra and the National Boards are working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations to increase the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across all registered health professions and to promote cultural safety and the elimination of racism in healthcare.

To view and download the 2021/21 annual report, visit the Annual report webpage.

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Registration

Renew online by 31 December 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 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 2021 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.

Registration renewal information is available in the Board's news item and on the Ahpra website.

Latest workforce data released

The Board’s registration data report for 1 July to 30 September 2021 is now available. As of this date, there were 35,712 registered pharmacists in Australia. Of these:

  • 33,025 had general registration
  • 1,715 had provisional registration
  • 967 had non-practising registration, and
  • there were five pharmacists with limited registration.

The 2,228 pharmacists who are part of the short-term pandemic response sub-register are included in the general registration figure.

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

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Practice advice

Privacy and confidentiality

Patient consultation

At times the Board receives notifications that relate to breaches of privacy and confidentiality. A recent notification highlighted the notifier’s experience when requesting a Schedule 3 medicine from the pharmacist.

The notifier had requested clotrimazole cream and stated she was questioned about the reason for her request and her medical conditions while standing in front of other customers in the pharmacy. The notifier reported being very embarrassed by having to give her answers within hearing of other people.

We remind pharmacists to ensure that the privacy of patients is considered. Privacy and confidentiality are outlined in Standard 1 of the Professional Practice Standards (v5) published by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Action 1.3.1 requires you to provide a setting for information exchange and service delivery that is appropriate to the patient.

The Board’s Code of conduct outlines that pharmacists have ethical and legal obligations to protect the privacy of people requiring and receiving care. Good practice includes providing appropriate surroundings to enable private and confidential consultations and discussions to take place.

Health records

Increasingly, digital health technology is being used by pharmacists to deliver health services. When using digital health systems, you should document and implement practices and procedures to protect patients’ personal information. The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act) outlines the privacy responsibilities that most healthcare providers must comply with in managing health and personal information. The key requirements are outlined in the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) set out within the Privacy Act. You must also be aware of your obligations under state-based legislation such as health records legislation.

When using digital health technology, it’s important to reflect on how personal information is stored and shared and to ensure that the patient is aware of who their personal information may be shared with.

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Social media guidance

The Board has published guidance on its website to help pharmacists understand their obligations when using social media. The guidance outlines that you must make sure that any comments made on social media are consistent with the codes, standards and guidelines of the pharmacy profession and do not contradict or counter public health campaigns or messaging.

A registered pharmacist who makes comments, endorses or shares information which contradicts the best available scientific evidence may give legitimacy to false health-related information and breach their professional responsibilities.

All pharmacists registered with the Board (practising and non-practising) must comply with the Board’s Code of conduct which states that in professional life, practitioners must display a standard of behaviour that warrants the trust and respect of the community. This includes observing and practising the principles of ethical conduct.

The Board also endorses the Code of ethics published by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Integrity principle 1 from the Code of ethics states that a pharmacist acts with honesty and integrity to maintain public trust and confidence in the profession. This includes demonstrating accepted standards of professional and culturally appropriate personal behaviour regardless of the setting, including in person and by electronic means such as social media and digital health.

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

Pharmacist reprimanded and suspended for dispensing anabolic steroids

A tribunal has found a pharmacist engaged in professional misconduct for inappropriate dispensing of anabolic steroids.

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Students and graduates

Starting your internship soon?

Are you starting your supervised practice hours soon, or already started? 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 should also 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, examination dates and other useful information.

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

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.

When applying for provisional registration you will also need to meet the Board’s Registration standard: English language skills and declare whether you have a criminal history or any health impairments. The Board’s Registration standard: Supervised practice arrangements will also apply to you, and if you do not meet this standard you will be ineligible for general registration.

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Alert

Services Australia notification: Upgrade to digital health and aged care channels

Services Australia is pleased to be working with Ahpra to prepare you for the upgrades the agency is making to its digital health and aged care channels.

Services Australia is upgrading its digital health and aged care channels. These upgrades will ensure that patient and provider information is secure, now and into the future.

To continue accessing the channels below, you’ll need to be using web service-compatible software by 13 March 2022:

  • Medicare Online
  • Australian Immunisation Register
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • ECLIPSE
  • PBS Online
  • Aged Care Online

Services Australia is also strengthening its authentication process by replacing Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) site certificates with Provider Digital Access (PRODA) for organisations. PRODA will help you do your electronic business with Services Australia securely.

If you use an alternative channel for your claims and don’t use software, you don’t need to do anything. These upgrades won’t affect you.

For more information about PRODA, visit www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/proda

What you need to do

Your software developer will have information on their transition and upgrade plans for your site. If you haven’t heard from them, contact them now and ask:

  • when will your web services-compatible software be available, and
  • if you will need to register your organisation in PRODA to authenticate to Medicare Online/ECLIPSE web services.*

*Users of PBS Online and Aged Care must register their organisation in PRODA to authenticate to their web services-enabled software.

If you use PBS Online, your software developer will contact you when more information is available.

It is important that you understand these changes, as they will affect your business if you use software to submit claims and data to Services Australia.

For more information, visit www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/hpwebservices

Australian Government Services Australia logo

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National Scheme news

Consent matters in healthcare: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), online news site Women’s Agenda published an editorial called Consent matters in healthcare. What to do if something feels wrong, co-authored by Gill Callister PSM, Chair of Ahpra’s governing board, Dr Anne Tonkin, Chair of the Medical Board of Australia, Rachel Phillips, Chair of the Psychology Board of Australia and Annette Symes, Presiding Member of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

When seeing a health practitioner, many people, especially women and girls, may feel at their most vulnerable. It’s important to discuss the safety of women, and what to do if something doesn’t feel right.

Many of the complaints made to Ahpra about inappropriate behaviour involve practitioners breaching the normal boundaries of the patient-practitioner interaction. Some involve touching patients inappropriately and without adequate informed consent from the patient. Sexual misconduct is an abuse of the treating relationship and can cause significant and lasting harm.

In the past three years, Ahpra and National Boards referred 150 health practitioners to a tribunal, and outcomes included cancellation of registration for up to five years. You can read the published summaries of these cases and others on Ahpra’s website, and visit the Register of cancelled, disqualified and/or prohibited practitioners.

We know the majority of practitioners are doing the right thing, but we will continue to respond strongly to cases of sexual misconduct. Part of our role is ensuring that the public can have trust in registered health practitioners. We all have a role to play in preventing sexism, sexual harassment and violence in our communities, including in healthcare.

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Changes to notification management are coming in Queensland

Queensland will introduce joint consideration of all notifications about health practitioners between Ahpra, the National Boards and the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in December 2021.

The changes aim to speed up the initial assessment of notifications, which will benefit registered health practitioners and notifiers.

All notifications about pharmacists in Queensland will continue to be received by the OHO. Currently, the OHO deals with the most serious matters it receives and refers most of the remaining notifications to Ahpra and the Pharmacy Board of Australia.

From December, all notifications received by the OHO about pharmacists will be shared with Ahpra and the Pharmacy Board when they are received. Ahpra and the OHO will review each notification at the same time and agree on which agency should manage the matter. All notifications that raise a concern about a pharmacist’s performance will be reviewed by a pharmacist clinical advisor.

The changes provide greater opportunity for earlier closure of concerns that do not need a regulatory response.

Relevant changes to Queensland legislation take effect on 6 December 2021 and all notifications from this date will be subject to joint consideration.

For more information on how notifications are managed, see Ahpra's website.

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Updated regulatory principles – supporting trust and confidence in regulated health professions

We’ve updated our regulatory principles to foster a culturally safe, responsive and risk-based approach to regulation.

The regulatory principles guide the National Boards and Ahpra when making regulatory decisions.

The changes reflect community expectations and new policy directions from the Health Council, as well as feedback from public consultation. They recognise that community confidence in the regulation of health practitioners is key to a safe and effective health system.

Overall, the changes:

  • reinforce that public protection is the paramount objective of the National Scheme
  • recognise the role of the National Boards and Ahpra in developing a culturally safe and respectful health workforce
  • consider the risks to the public including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and members of the community who are vulnerable to harm
  • embed fairness and transparency, and
  • highlight the importance of maintaining community confidence in regulated health professions and working with consumer bodies to achieve this.

More information about the review of the regulatory principles is available on Ahpra’s website

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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 7/12/2021