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June 2022

Issue 33 - June 2022

Chair’s message

Welcome to our latest newsletter. We cover important practice matters as well as general Board information and National Scheme news.

I am pleased to see the revised shared Code of conduct come into effect today and encourage all pharmacists to familiarise themselves with it.

This newsletter also includes important advice issued by the Commonwealth Department of Health about using third-party offshore providers. Any pharmacist engaging such providers is advised to carefully consider the issues raised.

On behalf of the Board, I thank all pharmacists who took part in our meet-and-greet event held in Hobart on Thursday 26 May 2022. Attendees included students, registered local community and hospital-based pharmacists and pharmacy stakeholders.

Brett Simmonds

Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia

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Board news

Code of conduct in effect today

We remind you that the revised Code of conduct (the code) comes into effect today, 29 June 2022. The code sets out our expectations of professional behaviour and conduct for pharmacists. You have a professional responsibility to apply this code in your practice, helping to keep the public safe. We encourage you to read and be familiar with the code.

The Code of conduct gives important guidance about the Board’s expectations and the standard of conduct the public can expect from pharmacists. Revising the code included extensive consultation and I’d like to thank everyone, including the pharmacists, who participated in the process. Your contributions have helped to create a more useful, more accessible and contemporary document for both pharmacists and the public.

We’ve included the National Scheme’s definition of cultural safety in the revised code as well as guidance on how you can ensure culturally safe and respectful practice. This inclusion highlights the important role pharmacists have in achieving equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap.

To support you in understanding and applying the code, National Boards have developed supporting resources. These include a series of frequently asked questions, and case studies which look at how the code could be applied in practice. National Boards have also developed a Code of conduct principles document, a one-page summary of the code, and encourage you to print a copy and place somewhere visible. You can find these resources under Resources to help health practitioners.

To read the code please visit the Code of conduct page on the Board’s website or the Shared Code of conduct page on the Ahpra website. 

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Initiatives for overseas-trained pharmacists

Skills assessment opportunity for migrants

The Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) is offering a free skills assessment opportunity for migrants as part of the Australian Government’s Migrant Skills Incentives Program. This program offers migrants on a permanent family, partner, humanitarian or refugee visa access to a free skills assessment if they want to work as a registered pharmacist in Australia (subject to eligibility criteria). Further information is available on the APC website.

Supporting pharmacists from Ukraine

Everyone will be aware of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has resulted in people fleeing their home. Among the refugees will be people who are pharmacists, and stakeholders in Australia and internationally are helping where possible.

To support and facilitate the integration of refugee pharmacists or pharmacy technicians from Ukraine in other countries, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) developed information on the pharmacy education and workforce in Ukraine. The document supports professional regulators as well as potential employers in host countries in having a better understanding of the profile of pharmacy graduates from Ukraine, in the absence of mechanisms for an automatic recognition of their qualification.

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Meet your Board

Mark KirschbaumMark Kirschbaum, practitioner member from Tasmania

Mark Kirschbaum has been a practising pharmacist for nearly 30 years and currently works as a locum pharmacist in Tasmania, particularly covering COVID-19 related shortages of staff. He also has roles in research and education (at the University of Tasmania School of Nursing where he teaches pathophysiology and the School of Pharmacy where he tutors in advanced pharmacotherapeutics) and is a member of a subcommittee of the Australian Medical Council.

Mark explained that his interest in health practitioner regulation was initially sparked by an invitation to be an oral examiner for pharmacy interns. Following this, he was appointed to the Board in 2012 and is serving his third term of three years, which has included being Chair of the Board’s Notifications Committee for several years.

A broad range of experience in many different areas has allowed Mark to look at the profession as a whole; in community practice including pharmacy ownership, hospital practice, research and education, as a commissioned Army Officer with operational experience overseas, and in regulation.

When asked about regulatory challenges the Board may face in the future, Mark said:

'There is a lot of movement in the profession about pharmacists increasing their role in primary care. This may involve areas such as prescribing, diagnostics and treatment of minor conditions. The challenge for the Board is to provide the right level of regulation and guidance to the profession without producing an unnecessary regulatory burden. The Board will need to be responsive to changes in the scope of practice of pharmacists, support innovation that’s in the public interest and ensure that it is facilitated by the right tools and safeguards to ensure safe practice.'

When reflecting on this as Chair of the Notifications Committee, Mark had some advice for pharmacists:

'One area that I have noticed as an ongoing concern is the way healthcare practitioners communicate with patients. I have often seen matters escalate due to a breakdown in communication with patients. Conducting final checks in a dispensing process, and engaging with patients in direct conversation and giving them opportunities for questions and support with information, provide the best opportunity to limit medication-related harm.

'While notifications are very stressful for practitioners, dealing with them professionally and engaging with the Board can limit this stress, as does looking after your own health and wellbeing.* The Board’s interest in notifications is to improve patient safety and it acts with that in mind.'

Mark feels that more work needs to be done in cross-professional relationships where boundaries between the traditional scopes of practice may not be so clear. As the traditional roles of pharmacists change over time, managing workforce issues to meet these demands will be challenging for all stakeholders.

*The Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS) provides confidential support services for pharmacists.

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Latest workforce data released

The Board’s registration data report for 1 January to 31 March 2022 is now available. At this date, there were 36,283 registered pharmacists in Australia. Of these:

  • 33,087 had general registration
  • 2,006 had provisional registration
  • 1,183 had non-practising registration, and
  • there were seven pharmacists with limited registration.

The March general registration figure includes 1,888 pharmacists on the short-term pandemic response sub-register.

Of the registered pharmacists:

  • 63.3% are female
  • 36.7% are male, and
  • less than 0.1% are not stated, intersex or indeterminate.

The data below shows the percentage of registered pharmacists by their principal place of practice (PPP).

  • ACT - 2.04%
  • NSW - 29.59%
  • NT - 0.79%
  • Qld - 19.91%
  • SA - 7.06%
  • Tas - 2.53%
  • Vic - 25.76%
  • WA - 10.74%, and
  • no PPP - 1.58%.

The table below shows the number of registrants by age group.

Pharmacy registration table March 2022

For more data, visit our Statistics page.

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Practice advice

TGA changes to the supply of extemporaneously compounded medicinal cannabis

From 28 April 2022, all extemporaneously compounded medicinal cannabis products must have evidence of Special Access Scheme (SAS) or Authorised Prescriber (AP) approval prior to dispensing. This change gives greater visibility of the number of prescriptions and the indications which are being written for these products. It also enables an application for SAS or AP approval to be queried or rejected by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) if there are significant clinical safety risks for the proposed patient.

Further information on ‘unapproved’ medicinal cannabis products and on the compounding of medicinal cannabis products is available on the TGA’s website.

In addition, from the same date, the Office of Drug Control (ODC) enabled the supply of Australian starting material to compounding pharmacies. Before this change, Australian product could only be compounded by hospital pharmacies. This change has been communicated by the ODC to their relevant permit holders.

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Important advice about using third-party offshore providers

The Commonwealth Department of Health has serious concerns that some companies located outside Australia, or with employees located outside Australia, are offering ‘third-party’ services to Australian pharmacies.

There are risks involved in outsourcing pharmacy processes or assigning work to a third-party provider. You need to be aware of these risks and ensure you meet your responsibilities under state, territory and Commonwealth government law. There may be penalties if you don’t comply.

If you’re a pharmacy owner and you engage the services of a third-party provider, do you know where that provider’s staff are located?

Below are some examples where engaging with a company with overseas employees to deliver some of your services could land you in trouble.

  • If you provide patient information to an overseas recipient, without the patient’s knowledge and their consent, you may have breached the patient’s privacy. This is an offence under the Privacy Act 1988.
  • If the patient information you have provided to a third party is mishandled, this could lead to identity theft. You could be held responsible for this misuse of information.
  • Improper accreditation and registration of the employees of third-party providers. If a person is not a registered pharmacist with the Pharmacy Board of Australia, then they are not recognised as a pharmacist in Australia. This may have implications for your professional indemnity insurance. It may also mean that person is not allowed to undertake certain roles as a ‘pharmacist’ under state, territory and Commonwealth government law.
  • You may be committing an offence under the National Health Act 1953 if you allow a person, other than an Australian registered pharmacist, to dispense a pharmaceutical benefit except under the direct supervision of an Australian registered pharmacist.

Engaging a third-party provider might seem like a good idea. However, the Department encourages you to check your current arrangements and make sure you are not committing any offences.

The Department is committed to supporting approved pharmacists to meet the requirements of the PBS when claiming for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits. If you have any reason to believe that an approved pharmacist has breached the conditions of approval, you can report your concerns to the Provider Benefits Integrity Hotline (1800 314 808), or to our online tip-off form.

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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.

Vaccination and social media

It was alleged that a pharmacist posted anti-vaccination views on social media criticising COVID-19 vaccines. Read more on the Board’s Case studies page.

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Stakeholder news

Join the Leaders in Indigenous Pharmacy Profession Education network

Under the leadership of Indigenous peoples across Australia and New Zealand, the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) and the Council of Pharmacy Schools Australia and New Zealand (CPS) have launched the Leaders in Indigenous Pharmacy Profession Education (LIPPE) network.

They will be hosting webinars over the coming months. They encourage pharmacists, interns and students to register for the LIPPE at Noon webinars and to join the LIPPE network.

LIPPE is dedicated to transforming the pharmacist workforce by enabling Indigenous leadership in the delivery of pharmacist education. This includes both undergraduate training and continuing professional development (CPD).

The National competency standards require pharmacists to ‘respect the personal characteristics, rights, preferences, values, beliefs, needs and cultural and linguistic diversity of patients and other clients, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ and to demonstrate competency in developing a patient centred, culturally responsive approach to medication management.

‘Twenty-one years since I became the first Aboriginal person to graduate as a pharmacist in this country, I am proud to see the work that is taking place with LIPPE and the impact that this will have on the future pharmacy workforce,’ said Associate Professor and pharmacist Faye McMillan AM.

‘I want to acknowledge the passion, commitment and staunchness of so many people and organisations that have contributed to LIPPE, and I am so excited for the future,’ she said.

For any questions or additional information please email the LIPPE secretariat at [email protected].

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National Scheme news

2021 pandemic response sub-register gets a boost

In September 2021, Ahpra and the National Boards established a new sub-register (the 2021 sub-register), enabling recently retired practitioners from 12 regulated health professions including pharmacy to return to practice for up to 12 months.

There are now 20,730 health practitioners with temporary registration on the sub-register to support the COVID-19 response. They are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, dental practitioners (all divisions), diagnostic radiographers, medical practitioners, midwives, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and psychologists.

All practitioners on the 2021 sub-register can work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations). Their registration expires on 21 September 2022. However, if governments alert Ahpra and the National Boards to significant changes in need, the sub-register may stay open for longer.

See pandemic response sub-register and FAQs for practitioners for more information. There are also FAQs for employers.

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Senate Committee tables its report

The Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee has tabled its report on the inquiry into the Administration of registration and notifications by Ahpra and related entities under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

Ahpra actively engaged with the inquiry, with representatives of Ahpra, the Agency Management Committee and Community Advisory Council all appearing. There were public submissions and stakeholder appearances.

We will consider the recommendations directed to Ahpra and National Boards and contribute to the Australian Government response, as requested.

The report is available on the Inquiry web page.  

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