Queensland pharmacists and doctors are at odds over a new trial that will let people get their flu shots at chemist shops.
Queensland parents wanting to immunise their children could eventually pop into their local pharmacist.
On the back of a contentious decision this week to trial flu shots at chemists, Health Minister Lawrence Springborg has flagged further expanding responsibilities, drawing ire from doctors.
The government argues it will reduce demands on the health system, and the convenience could help boost the state’s childhood immunisation rate from 92 to a 95 per cent target.
“The most important thing for us is vaccination opportunities, and we want to improve Queensland’s high rate of vaccinations,” Mr Springborg says.
“If it is easier for people in their pharmacies, then we might look at those things in the future when those pharmacies are appropriately located.”
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) doesn’t want pharmacists to be responsible for immunisations, arguing it requires special training.
It has expressed serious patient safety concerns over the flu trial, due to start before this flu season, and has written to Queensland’s chief health officer demanding it be canned.
AMA president Steve Hambleton says pharmacists have no proven record they are safe or that pharmacies are appropriate locations for potentially risky procedures such as vaccinations.
“We should do what we’re good at and what we’re trained to do and leave the rest of the work to the other side,” Dr Hambleton told AAP.
“The big issue here is patient safety and using the right part of the health system to do the right job. Trialling something for which you aren’t trained is risky and we think that risk is too high.”
He is also sceptical that any such move would boost vaccination rates.
The national immunisation program provides vaccines for free at GP clinics, but it could come at a cost at pharmacies if the state can’t negotiate with the federal government, Dr Hambleton says.
The national president of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, said the AMA’s criticisms are not driven by concerns about patients.
He says its about doctors’ desire to retain control over all aspects of the health system, even if it means reduced access for patients.
“It is most regrettable that the AMA has taken such a negative and alarmist approach to this pilot program,” he said.
“The provision of health services should be about safety and benefit, not about turf protection.”