UTI treatment added to NSW pharmacy prescribing trial

Women suffering from urinary tract infections (UTIs) can now receive treatment and medicine without first having to see a GP.

A NSW government trial treating basic health complaints at the local pharmacy is expanding from tomorrow to include women with uncomplicated UTIs.

The state’s Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Sunday the pilot phase of the community pharmacy prescribing trial launched in May had been a great success and it was time to expand.

“This expansion of services means more women with uncomplicated UTIs will be able to visit their nearest participating pharmacy and receive advice, and where appropriate, be dispensed medication for their UTI, and information provided to their usual GP to support integrated primary care,” Dr Chant said.

She said the $3 million scheme had been particularly popular in regional areas, which often have fewer GPs available.

The government is currently covering the cost of the $20 consultation fee, so the only out-of-pocket cost for most women would be the medication prescribed.

Later in the year, the trial will be expanded to allow eligible women to receive a resupply of their low-risk oral contraceptive pill from participating pharmacists.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has been wary of the rollout, with concerns it could endanger patients. 

College president Nicole Higgins warned earlier this year against replacing GPs with less experienced practitioners.

“GPs train for well over 10 years in diagnostics, as well as doing ongoing training for the rest of our working life, in order to be able to diagnose patients,” Dr Higgins said.

“It might be a cheaper option at first, but who wants cheaper if it means a serious illness is missed?”

However, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said 6.5 million trips to the doctor could be saved annually if the policy is rolled out nationwide.

Pharmacist and pilot participant Dr Sarah Dineen-Griffin from University of Newcastle said the feasibility study provided early evidence of the benefit to patients.

“The study so far has shown how pharmacists can work collaboratively with GPs to improve access to primary health care,” Dr Dineen-Griffin said.

The full list of participating pharmacies can be found on the NSW Health website.

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