Qld GPs reject 'safe and effective' pharmacy trial

·2-min read
Paul Miller/AAP PHOTOS

Queensland GPs continue to rail against a pharmacy program that offers "safe and effective care" of common urinary tract infections, calling on the state's new health minister to terminate the successful service.

A trial program allowing pharmacists to diagnose and treat women suffering from non-complex urinary tract infection (UTI) in Queensland was permanently adopted in October 2022.

An independent review found the service improved access to primary healthcare services and was more convenient and faster for patients.

"The findings of this evaluation suggest that there is an opportunity to decrease the workload of GPs managing minor ailments such as UTIs in Australia, confirming that about a third of patients who sought care from a GP practice reporting having to wait more than two days for an appointment," the study released in April found. 

"The availability of UTI treatment by community pharmacists will increase access to safe and effective care."

The review found that of the 10,270 Queensland women who sought pharmacy UTI care, 192 patients, or 1.87 per cent, with recurrent or relapsing infections were treated against protocols. 

"A small number of individuals (six) were provided a service UTI service within 14 days of a previous service, 156 received two services within six months and 30-36 individuals received three services within one year," the study found.

"It is noted that dispensing records across pharmacies are not linked, nor the records of professional services such as UTI in the same way that clinical records are not linked between GP practices."

The review called for a more complete record of patient clinical records to be made available.

"It is important as IT systems evolve, to look for opportunities to more completely record and share clinical information, including opportunities to have such information clearly available in My Health Record."

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Nicole Higgins said it was alarming pharmacists had treated 192 patients despite being ineligible due to recurrent or relapsing infections. 

"The more we learn about this pilot, the clearer it becomes that the Queensland government should terminate unsupervised pharmacy prescribing of UTIs," Dr Higgins said. 

"The final report found 'some evidence of protocol deviation' and it's only when you dive into the finer details you realise many patients were put at risk." 

Dr Higgins called on Queensland's new health minister to immediately halt all unsupervised pharmacy prescribing.

"We have a brand-new health minister in Queensland in Shannon Fentiman and a fresh opportunity to put patient safety first," she said. 

The minister has been contacted for comment.