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March 2019

Issue 21

Chair’s message

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2019 and my first as Chair of the Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board).

In this newsletter we introduce new content published on the Board’s website. The Board has developed a case study webpage as well as a webpage highlighting tribunal decisions. The Board hopes that this information will help practitioners understand and meet their professional and legal obligations as registered pharmacists.

The Board has also published a discussion paper on pharmacist prescribing. The discussion paper is your chance to give feedback, so the profession and stakeholders can continue to explore potential models of pharmacist prescribing. Your insights will be invaluable in helping shape possible pharmacist prescribing proposals. I strongly encourage all interested stakeholders to provide their feedback.

And on a final note, I would like to pay tribute to Steve Marty who sadly passed away recently. Steve was the inaugural Chair of the Pharmacy Board of Australia. He was well-known to the profession and stakeholders, having made significant contributions to pharmacy in the public interest during his long career as a regulator. Steve played a substantial role in the development and implementation of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) and successfully led the Board through its establishment and operation as the national regulator of pharmacists.

As a Board member under Steve’s leadership, I was the beneficiary of his advice and guidance. Steve was a great mentor to me, guiding me in my development as a Board member and in preparation for my role as Chair of the Board. Those of us who had the opportunity to work closely with Steve will miss his insights, the benefits of his incredible knowledge about all things pharmacy, and most enjoyably, his wit and sense of humour. On behalf of the Board, I express our sincere condolences to Steve’s family.

Photo of Brett Simmonds - Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia

Brett Simmonds
Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia

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News from the Board

Vale Stephen Marty

Photo of Stephen MartyThe Pharmacy Board of Australia laments the passing of Mr Stephen (Steve) Marty, inaugural Chair of the National Board from 2009 to 30 August 2015. A tireless contributor to the pharmacy profession, Stephen was a motivated and highly respected member of the profession and an experienced regulator with public protection at the core of his work. The Board remembers his significant contribution to the establishment of the National Scheme and to leading the inaugural National Board for pharmacy. The Board and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) express sincere condolences to Stephen’s family during this difficult time.

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Pharmacist prescribing discussion paper published

The Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board) is seeking the views of practitioners and stakeholders about the potential role of pharmacists in prescribing.

The Board has published a discussion paper that includes the outcomes of the forum and a range of consultation questions to help the profession further explore its role in prescribing. The questions cover topics including:

  • models of prescribing that can be pursued by the pharmacy profession including the supporting evidence
  • identification of gaps in evidence that may need to be addressed by the profession, and
  • issues that need to be considered and addressed to assess the regulatory need for an endorsement for prescribing of scheduled medicines.

The discussion paper is intended to stimulate discussion and collaboration among stakeholders and highlight where further work is needed to develop proposals for pharmacist prescribing.

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Read the Board's annual report for 2017/18

Following tabling of the annual report for AHPRA and the National Boards each year, each National Board publishes a profession-specific summary, with more information on Board activities and profession-specific registration and regulation statistics. You can find the Pharmacy Board report in PDF on the Downloads page of the AHPRA annual report page.

Pharmacy Board highlights at a glance

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Meet the Board

Photo of Rod Wellington

This month we chat to community member Rod Wellington.

Community board member Rod Wellington believes every Australian should have access to equitable health services wherever they live.

‘Pharmacy services are basic and core to the health and wellbeing of every Australian,’ Rod said.

Rod was appointed to the Pharmacy Board in 2018 for his first term of three years. He believes having community members at the table offers the opportunity to tap into a rich pool of talented candidates, something that is often ignored by organisations.

This opportunity brings new voices, experiences and approaches to the decision-making process while adding depth to existing skills and ideas.

‘Most importantly, the requirement to include community members on the Pharmacy Board brings it closer to properly representing stakeholders,’ Rod said.

‘For community members, board service can provide the ability to influence important decisions, develop expanded networks, achieve immense personal satisfaction and build on or develop new knowledge and skills.’

A member of the Policies, Codes and Guidelines Committee, Rod was involved in developing the discussion paper on pharmacist prescribing recently published by the Board.

‘It is important that the next steps in further developing the discussion paper not only consider the views of various health professions but also the needs of health consumers. After all, the focus of the Australian healthcare system is based on patient-centred care – an approach which involves health consumers in all decisions about their health treatment,’ he said.

As a non-executive director and CEO with over 20 years’ experience in the health, education and primary industry sectors, Rod believes he is well prepared for the role of a community board member.

‘My experience has enabled me to develop a very good understanding of corporate governance principles – the framework of rules, relationships, systems and processes within and by which authority is exercised and controlled in organisations.’

Helping to develop Rod’s interest in health practitioner regulation was his 10 years as CEO of Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH). This role also saw him focus on rural and remote communities.

‘I became aware that health professionals, particularly in rural and remote areas, are required to adapt to workforce shortages and are well versed in the interprofessional and team approach to healthcare.

‘It is noteworthy that in many smaller and more remote communities, people in need of primary healthcare are reliant on nursing and allied health services because of workforce gaps. If these professionals are well supported, then the need for health consumers to access specialist and hospital services will be reduced.’

Rod said health professionals provided a range of clinical and health education services to people living in rural and remote Australian communities.

‘They are critical in the management of their clients’ health needs, particularly for those with a disability, chronic disease and complex care needs.’

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Practice advice

New case studies web page

The Board has developed a new page on its website where case studies will be published to help practitioners understand and meet their professional and legal obligations as a registered pharmacist. The new web page will include case studies published in past Board newsletters and new case studies which will be published from time to time. New case studies published include:

Dispensing procedures and supervision of staff

A notifer alleged that the practitioner allowed a pharmacy student to prepare and dispense a patient’s methadone dose without direct supervision and failed to check the dose before it was provided to the patient. You can read more on the Board’s case study page.

Dispensing error — incorrect patient

It was alleged that a practitioner dispensed a medication to the incorrect patient. When collecting the prescription, the patient was provided with a medication belonging to another patient with the same surname but different first name by a pharmacy assistant. Because of this error, the patient took a medication that was not prescribed for them and suffered adverse effects. You can read more on the Board’s case study page.

Now is a good time to bookmark the new case study web page and check back periodically to access more case studies and new information that will be published.

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New registration data released

The Board has released its quarterly registration data. Read the latest report and other statistics on its website. The data profiles Australia’s pharmacy workforce, including information on types of registration held, principal place of practice, registrant age and gender.

At 31 December 2018, there were 31,565 registered pharmacists in total, classified by registration type:

  • 28,769 – general
  • 1,630 – provisional
  • 16 – limited, and
  • 1,150 – non-practising.

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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 court and tribunal cases can be found on the new Pharmacy regulation at work: tribunal decisions page on the Board’s website. Here are some recent cases.

Pharmacist disqualified from re-applying for registration for professional misconduct

A pharmacist has been disqualified from re-applying for registration for six months after he admitted to professional misconduct. You can read more on the Board’s news page.

Pharmacist who sold testosterone reprimanded for professional misconduct

A registered pharmacist in Western Australia has been reprimanded after he admitted to engaging in professional misconduct. You can read more on the Board’s news page.

Pharmacist who claimed over $22,000 in fraudulent PBS claims suspended by tribunal

A registered pharmacist in Victoria has been suspended for six months after it was found she engaged in professional misconduct. Read more on the Board’s news page.

We want people to be safe when making a complaint about a registered health practitioner

A South Australian medical practitioner has been convicted of the attempted murder of a pharmacist after she reported his misconduct. Read more in the media release.

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National Scheme news

AHPRA's 2017/18 annual report is online

The annual report for AHPRA and the National Boards for the year to 30 June 2018 is available online. The report provides a nationwide snapshot and highlights the multi-profession approach to risk-based regulation across the work of the National Scheme.

Insights include:

  • More practitioners: There were 23,800 more registered health practitioners, totalling 702,741 health practitioners across the 15 regulated professions.
  • Assuring individuals seeking registration are trained, qualified and competent: Over 740 accredited approved programs of study delivered by more than 330 education providers.
  • Growth in notifications: This year, AHPRA received more notifications than in any other year since the National Scheme began (7,276), an increase of 5.5% nationally (1.6% of all registered health practitioners). The top three notifier complaints related to clinical care (41.0%), medication issues (12.6%) and health impairment (8.9%).
  • Improved management of notifications about practitioners: While we received more notifications than ever before, we also closed more than ever before during the year (7,105). AHPRA is committed to improving the notification experience for both notifier and practitioner.
  • Dealing with statutory complaints: This year, we received 416 new offence complaints relating to title protection and 1,043 complaints related to advertising.
  • Ensuring public safety through monitoring and compliance: 5,005 practitioners had their registration monitored in 2017/18. The majority of active monitoring cases related to additional requirements about suitability and eligibility for registration.
  • Prosecutions to protect the public: AHPRA completed 13 proceedings in the magistrates’ and local courts. All prosecutions resulted in findings of guilt.

To view and download the 2017/18 annual report, visit the AHPRA website.

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Pharmacy Board supports more public information on the national register

Changes to the national online register of practitioners will make it easier to access public information about health practitioners across Australia.

The online register has accurate, up-to-date information about the registration status of all registered health practitioners in Australia including pharmacists. As decisions are made about a practitioner’s registration renewal or disciplinary proceedings, the register is updated to inform the public about the status of individual practitioners and any restrictions placed upon their practice.

Along with other National Boards, the Board has decided to introduce links to public tribunal decisions when serious allegations have been proven, in the interests of transparency and on the recommendation of the Independent review of the use of chaperones to protect patients in Australia.

No information about the notifications received by the National Boards and AHPRA will be published. The change is simply helping to make information easier to find.

Further information is available on the Board’s website.

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Proposed changes to practitioners' names published on the national register

Governments recently consulted on possible changes to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law), as in force in each state and territory, one of which would allow AHPRA and the National Boards to publish the names that registered health practitioners use in practice and not just their legal name. The national online register of practitioners is a vital part of Australia’s system of regulating health practitioners to support patient safety.

The public and employers can look up the names of all health practitioners who are registered to practise, as well as find information about any limits or restrictions placed on the way an individual practitioner is allowed to practise.

The national register must remain an authoritative and trusted source of information about health practitioners. Consumers rely on it for accurate, up-to-date information to inform their healthcare decision-making and employers rely on it to validate their employees’ registration status.

Some health practitioners practise their profession using a name (an alias) that is different from their legally recognised name published on the register. AHPRA has asked governments to consider changes to the National Law that would enable registered health practitioners to nominate one or more aliases to be recorded on the public register.

AHPRA believes that recording additional names (or aliases) on the register will help to inform and protect the public by making it easier to identify a registered practitioner.

AHPRA and the National Boards will keep practitioners and the public informed of any changes to the law and reporting requirements. For more information, read the media release on AHPRA’s website.

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AHPRA and National Boards welcome the release of the Accreditation Systems Review final report

AHPRA and the National Boards have welcomed the publication of the Independent Accreditation Systems Review final report.

The Independent Accreditation Systems Review’s (the Review) final report makes significant, far-reaching recommendations to reform the accreditation system for regulated health professions in Australia. It proposes recommendations which range from relatively uncontentious and that the National Scheme bodies generally support, to those which are significantly more complex and contentious.

Health Ministers commissioned the Review following a review of the National Scheme as a whole.

For more information read the statement on the AHPRA website.

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Selectively editing reviews or testimonials may break the law

AHPRA has issued more guidance for advertisers to make it clear that selectively editing reviews is not acceptable.

Under the National Law, testimonials about clinical care are not permitted, but reviews about non-clinical aspects of care are allowed.

In a recent case, an advertiser removed all negative comments from patients’ reviews. This selective editing changed the meaning of the reviews and had the potential to mislead the public. AHPRA’s new guidance makes it clear this is not acceptable and outlines the rules about editing or moderating reviews. It is misleading to:

  • edit a review that is negative to make it positive, as this falsely presents the feedback
  • edit a review that has a mix of negative and positive comments so that the published review only has positive comments, as this falsely implies that the reviewer only had positive feedback, or
  • edit a review so that it no longer accurately reflects all the reviewer’s feedback and presents an inaccurate or false impression of the reviewer’s views.

Reviews influence consumers’ healthcare choices so advertisers must make sure reviews are genuine and not misleading.

The way advertisers moderate and publish reviews must comply with the National Law and the Australian Consumer Law.

The updated testimonial tool is available in the Advertising resources section on the AHPRA website.

For more information, visit the Advertising resources page on the AHPRA website.

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National Boards and AHPRA host research summit

The National Registration and Accreditation Scheme 2019 Research Summit took place on 27 February 2019 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The summit asked how research can be harnessed to strengthen regulation and improve patient safety to contribute to improved health outcomes.

Led by AHPRA and the National Boards, the all-day Research Summit hosted 17 speakers and drew more than 300 participants from national, state and territory board and committee members, AHPRA staff, co-regulatory bodies, representatives from accreditation authorities and key partners.

With the theme ‘Optimising research for regulatory effectiveness’, the Research Summit explored the National Scheme’s evolving approaches to risk assessment, lessons from research into notifications, and future opportunities to use smart data. At the heart of discussions was the question how we can use data and research to improve regulatory processes and, ultimately, contribute to safer care for patients.

Professor Zubin Austin from the University of Toronto, Canada, was a keynote speaker. His stirring address highlighted that competency assessment has emerged as a dominant issue for regulators, educators and employers worldwide; Professor Austin called for more attention to be focused on notions of teamwork, emotional intelligence, and genuine practitioner engagement as important concepts in defining and evaluating competency.

Read more in the media release about the summit.

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'Lets talk about it' videos launched

AHPRA has launched a series of new videos to support the public and registered health practitioners as they go through the notification process.

The video series, called ‘Let’s talk about it’, explains what happens when concerns are raised with the regulator, gives easy-to-follow information about the notifications process and addresses common questions, so consumers and health practitioners know what to expect when they interact with AHPRA and National Boards.

The videos are:

The videos sit alongside other written resources available on our website.

You can view the videos on the AHPRA and National Board websites or from our YouTube and Vimeo channel, and join the conversation by following AHPRA on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn: use the hashtag #letstalkaboutit and tag @AHPRA.

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Legislative amendments on mandatory reporting and fake practitioners

The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (Qld) (the Bill) has been passed by the Queensland Parliament. The amendments include revisions to the mandatory reporting requirements for treating practitioners and an extension of sanctions for statutory offences.

The changes to the National Law1 intend to support registered practitioners to seek help for a health issue (including mental health issues). They will also increase the penalties (including the introduction of custodial sentences) for some offences under the National Law, including where a person holds themselves out to be a registered health practitioner when they are not.

AHPRA and National Boards will now work to implement these amendments. This will require working closely with professional bodies, employers and state and territory health departments to spread the message that practitioners should be supported to seek help about their health issues.

The passing of the Bill in Queensland marks the second set of legislative amendments to the National Law since the start of the National Scheme in 2010.

When they take effect, the amendments will apply in all states and territories except Western Australia, where their mandatory reporting requirements will not change.

Practitioners can read a news item about the amendments on the AHPRA website or the Bill on the Queensland Legislation website.

1The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law), as in force in each state and territory.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Pharmacy Board website for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQ. 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 9275 9009 (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