The current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is a rapidly changing situation. The Board acknowledges the important role of pharmacists and their support staff in responding to COVID-19, and their recent significant efforts to support communities affected by bushfires and other natural disasters across Australia. On behalf of the Board, I thank you all.
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, there will be new and regular updates from many important sources, including governments, local health departments and professional organisations, with advice about the emerging needs of the public and how to best meet them. The Board is working with Ahpra to provide helpful information, including answers to common questions, which is being regularly updated on Ahpra’s website.
Some useful resources include:
Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) information for pharmacists
The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia COVID-19 information hub
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
Updates from Ahpra and National Boards about COVID-19
Pharmacy Board of Australia codes, guidelines and policies
COVID-19 Home Medicines Service.
You can also send your questions directly to Ahpra by email: COVID19@ahpra.gov.au.
Please keep abreast of these updates and respond accordingly to support ongoing access to medicines, advice and information by the public, including those who are most vulnerable.
We know that while evaluating patients’ needs and how best to adapt to challenges that emerge in times like this, pharmacists will provide great support to each other and to other health professionals with whom they collaborate. It’s important to evaluate how best to allocate resources to effectively respond to emerging patient health needs.
The staff who support you, such as dispensary assistants, hospital pharmacy technicians, interns and students, are an important resource and we acknowledge their valuable roles in providing pharmacy services. In these challenging times, you may have fewer resources and staff or may need to supervise more support staff than usual. Please ensure you continue to provide the supervision, guidance and advice required by staff so that pharmacy services are delivered safely.
The Board’s Guidelines for dispensing of medicines on our website and the pharmacy professional practice standards and guidelines published by pharmacy organisations are particularly helpful for advice on indirect supply of medicines and patient counselling. This is especially important when there is an increasing demand for the delivery of medicines to patients who cannot personally visit a pharmacy.
You may also be asked to supply medicines on a prescription that has been faxed, emailed or transmitted by some other means such as SMS. These may be a source of dispensing errors or forgeries and fraudulent behaviour to unlawfully obtain medicines. Please remain vigilant: make sure you confirm that you have taken reasonable steps to satisfy yourself that the order is bona fide and in accordance with relevant state or territory legislation. Some of these incidents may be reduced with the future introduction of digital prescriptions through electronic prescribing. The Board’s Guidelines for dispensing of medicines also provide guidance on hard-copy prescriptions that are copied and transmitted electronically.
We encourage you to pay attention to your own health needs and those of your staff during this challenging period. Please take care during the weeks and months ahead.
For interns planning to take registration examinations during 2020, please read the update in this newsletter.
Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia
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The assessment of competence of intern pharmacists seeking general registration is an important public safeguard. The Board, in collaboration with APC and Ahpra, is continually assessing the public health risks of COVID-19 and the potential impact on the Board’s written and oral examinations during 2020. As COVID-19 continues to spread, our first priority is the safety of everyone involved; candidates, examiners and staff.
Our current focus is on the written and oral examinations that are scheduled to take place before 30 June 2020. The Board, APC and Ahpra will advise enrolled candidates and interns intending to apply to sit these examinations as soon as possible if there are any new arrangements or changes.
Any potential impacts on written and oral examinations scheduled between July and December 2020 will be informed by further developments in COVID-19 and will be determined and advised later in 2020.
A pharmacy-specific statistical summary and a report from the Chair that covers the work of the Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board) over the 12 months to 30 June 2019 is now available online.
The summary draws on data from the 2018/19 annual report of Ahpra and the National Boards. This information provides a snapshot of the pharmacy profession as at 30 June 2019, and includes the number of registered pharmacists, a breakdown by gender and age and outcomes of practitioner audits.
Notifications information includes:
As well, information is provided about:
Pharmacy-specific data tables are also available for downloading.
To gain an insight into the pharmacy profession during 2018/19 and to access the data tables visit the Board’s 2018/19 summary.
In 2018, the Board conducted a large-scale survey of recent pharmacy interns and preceptors across Australia.
The Pharmacy Internship Experience Survey (PIES) was a national survey giving interns and preceptors the chance to provide feedback on their own experiences, so the Board can continue to improve the supervised practice process for future interns and preceptors.
The survey was conducted to investigate issues relevant to the quality of the intern training experience. The survey was part of the Board’s goal to continuously improve the training experience for interns, to better prepare the pharmacy workforce to provide safe services to the public.
We have published the survey report on our Professional practice issues webpage. We look forward to working with stakeholders to facilitate a better intern experience.
It is pleasing to note that although survey respondents indicated areas for improvement, the majority of the interns and preceptors surveyed agreed that the internship year was successful and enabled interns to gain the skills and knowledge to practise independently as a pharmacist.
On 28 January 2020 the Board was pleased to attend the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association (NAPSA) annual congress in Newcastle, NSW as a trade booth sponsor. Our representative was NSW practitioner member Ben Wilkins, who is from Newcastle.
Ben engaged with pharmacy students from universities across Australia and New Zealand and gave the students useful information about how to apply for registration when they are about to graduate. Students received a pack which included a diagram of the different pharmacy regulators and stakeholders in Australia and how they relate to pharmacists, interns, students and pharmacy premises, the obligations of a registered pharmacist, the pathway to general registration and a quick reference guide to the Board’s codes, guidelines and policies.
The Board congratulates Holly Pole-Cini, Congress Chair, the Newcastle Congress Organising Committee and all other students and volunteers involved for arranging such a successful event.
(L-R) Aakanksha Sharma (University of Western Australia), Madeleine Hills (University of Western Australia), Travis Ng (Monash University), Bradley Tomlinson (Otago University, New Zealand) and Ben Wilkins (Board member) at the NAPSA Congress tradeshow, Newcastle.
This month we chat to community member Dr Rod Wellard about health practitioner regulation and his role on the Pharmacy Board of Australia. Rod is currently serving his final term and reflects on his time with the Board over the last nine years.
Rod has spent a large part of his career working with health professionals in educational support roles. His background in education, training and assessment has given him valuable experience to share with the Board. Rod’s time as a member of the Australian Pharmacy Council (APC) Examinations Committee and Accreditation Committee also gave him a good understanding of the accreditation and assessment processes in pharmacy.
While Rod has been a member of various Board committees, he has been a member of the Registration and Examinations Committee (REC) for most of his time on the Board, with a substantial part of that time as Chair. The REC is responsible for registration application and compliance matters and oversees the oral examination. It considers exam policies and processes, examiner training, review and ratification of results, appeals and quality improvement projects to gain assurance that the exam is performing as well as it possibly can.
Ask Rod about what he was involved in during his time on the REC and he will be happy to talk to you about the development of the Pharmacy Intern Experience Survey, support for setting the examination processes and procedures on a firm footing and the contribution to the Intern Year Blueprint Implementation Working Group. ‘If asked by friends and family what I did, I’ll talk about these as examples until their eyes glaze over!’ Rod says.
‘I’m particularly pleased about the recent publication of the Pharmacy Intern Experience Survey report as I feel it will contribute to a more informed understanding of the strengths of the intern year,’ Rod says. ‘It will also give the Board opportunities to work with stakeholders to improve the intern experience.’
Rod notes, ‘The results also provide support for retention of the intern year in light of the critique from the recent Wood’s Accreditation Review.’
When asked about challenges that the Board may face in the future, Rod had this to say. ‘I think one of the likely challenges will be responding to changes in the education environment which might affect intern year supervision and assessment requirements and interns’ eligibility for registration.
‘Nevertheless, over the nine years I’ve been a member I think the Board has functioned very well because it has had very good leadership, very good executive and policy support, and committed membership. I have no doubt that with these attributes it will take the challenges in its stride.’
Registration data for the period 1 October 2019 to 31 December 2019 is now available. It shows that at this date, there were 32,412 registered pharmacists in Australia. Of these, 29,189 had general registration, 1,851 had provisional registration and 1,354 had non-practising registration.
For more data, including registrant numbers by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page.
Recently, there have been changes to pharmacist-administered vaccination programs in some states and territories. We encourage all pharmacists who are authorised to administer vaccines to familiarise themselves with any changes to the pharmacist-administered vaccination program in the state or territory where they practise.
Pharmacists are authorised to administer vaccines in a state or territory if they have met the requirements set out by the local health department including training requirements. Pharmacists practising in different states and territories (for example locum pharmacists) will need to ensure they are aware of any differences in the requirements and the local pharmacist-administered vaccination programs including the differences in the types of vaccines and the minimum age of patients who can be vaccinated.
The Board publishes case studies to help pharmacists understand and meet their professional and legal obligations. A new case study was published this month:
It was alleged that a pharmacist dispensed insulin glargine (Lantus) that had expired several months earlier. You can read more on the Board’s case study page.
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 are recent tribunal cases.
A tribunal has found a Western Australian pharmacist engaged in professional misconduct after she was convicted of unlawfully importing ice-pipes into Australia. Read more in the news item.
A tribunal has reprimanded a formerly registered pharmacist after it was found he had engaged in professional misconduct. Read more in the news item.
A tribunal has reprimanded, fined and placed conditions on a pharmacist’s registration for stealing and unlawfully supplying a prescription, and for failing to declare on a renewal application for registration that there had been changes to his criminal history. Read more in the news item.
An ambitious strategy from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts, regulators and health organisations committed to embedding cultural safety into the health system has been released by 43 entities including Ahpra and the National Boards.
The National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020-2025 is endorsed by organisations, academics and individuals, including the entities who set the education standards for the 183,000 students who are studying to become registered health practitioners and the regulators of Australia’s 750,000 registered practitioners.
The strategy focuses on achieving patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the norm and the inextricably linked elements of clinical and cultural safety. Development of the strategy was led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and individuals via the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group, which represents all signatories to the strategy.
Patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is the norm. We recognise that patient safety includes the inextricably linked elements of clinical and cultural safety, and that this link must be defined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Cultural safety: A culturally safe health workforce through nationally consistent standards, codes and guidelines across all registered health practitioners in Australia.
Increased participation: Increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the registered health workforce and across all levels of the scheme regulating registered practitioners nationally.
Greater access: Greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to culturally safe services from registered health practitioners.
Influence: Using the Strategy Group’s leadership and influence to achieve reciprocal goals. This includes developing a nationally consistent baseline definition to be used across the scheme regulating registered practitioners nationally, which has already been achieved in partnership with the National Health Leadership Forum.
As part of the strategy, we have already reached some goals:
For more information, please read the media release.
There is also a new podcast about the strategy, featuring Karl Briscoe and Prof. Greg Phillips. See Ahpra's 'Taking care' series of podcasts.
On 1 March 2020 the amendments to the National Law in relation to mandatory notifications took effect.
The amendments apply in all states and territories except Western Australia and affect the mandatory reporting obligations for treating practitioners.
The threshold for reporting a concern about impairment, intoxication and practice outside professional standards has been raised. The threshold is now reached when there is a substantial risk of harm to the public.
The National Boards and Ahpra have jointly revised the mandatory notifications guidelines to reflect these amendments. The guidelines are relevant to all registered health practitioners and registered students in Australia.
The guidelines aim to explain the mandatory notifications requirements in the National Law clearly so that practitioners, employers and education providers understand who must make a mandatory notification about a practitioner or student and when notifications must be made. They also aim to make it clearer when a notification does not need to be made.
Changes to the guidelines include:
To help explain the requirements and raise awareness, Ahpra and National Boards have released a range of information materials to both ensure patient safety and support practitioner wellbeing.
Read the revised guidelines for practitioners and students and the additional resources developed to help explain mandatory notifications.
Ahpra and the National Boards have welcomed two new policy directions from the COAG Health Council which reinforce that Ahpra and National Boards are to prioritise public protection in the work of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme).
The first policy direction outlines that when determining whether to take regulatory action about a health practitioner, National Boards and Ahpra must:
The policy direction also authorises limited sharing of information with employers and state/territory health departments about serious matters involving the conduct of a registered health practitioner.
The second policy direction requires Ahpra and National Boards to consult with patient safety bodies and consumer bodies on registration standards, codes and guidelines when these are being developed or revised. It also provides that National Boards and Ahpra must:
Public protection and consultation have always been primary considerations when administering the National Scheme, but these policy directions clearly articulate that patient safety is paramount.
In implementing the policy directions, Ahpra and National Boards will continue to ensure fairness for health practitioners in regulatory processes. The policy directions can be viewed on the Board’s website.
Ahpra and National Boards have published a new guide to help registered health practitioners understand and meet their obligations when using social media.
The guide reminds practitioners that when interacting online, they should maintain professional standards and be aware of the implications of their actions, just as when they interact in person.
The guide does not stop practitioners from engaging online or via social media; instead, it encourages practitioners to act ethically and professionally in any setting.
To help practitioners meet their obligations, the guide also outlines some common pitfalls practitioners may encounter when using social media.
Community trust in registered health practitioners is essential. Whether an online activity can be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, health practitioners have a responsibility to behave ethically and to maintain professional standards, as in all professional circumstances.
In using social media, health practitioners should be aware of their obligations under the National Law, their Board’s Code of conduct, the Advertising guidelines and other relevant legislation, such as privacy legislation.
This guide replaces the Social media policy on Boards’ codes, guidelines and policies pages and is available in the Advertising resources section of Ahpra’s website. The guide will be updated as needed.