The Pharmacy Board of Australia, along with 11 other national boards, introduced revisions to the AHPRA Code of Conduct (“Code”), which came into effect on 29 June 2022. The Code sets out the expectations for the behaviour and conduct of registered practitioners, including proprietor pharmacists. It is essential for every pharmacist to be informed of the changes to legislation and the regulations pertaining to their practice.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher has stated that the changes to the Code have been made to reflect the changes in public expectations, and professional practice in the medical and allied health industry, with a particular focus on achieving equity in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This article summarises the major changes to the Code for you.
Performance Targets for Pharmacists
The first notable change, is that performance targets and/or staff incentives have been determined to create a potential conflict of interest, which may encourage pharmacists entrusted with acting in the best interests of a patient, to be impacted by another financial or personal incentive. The revisions to the Code states that any employer of a health practitioner must not set performance targets, quotas, or engage in business practices that are inconsistent with the Code or that may compromise patient safety.
Proprietor pharmacists should consider what incentives and other performance initiative practices are in place at their pharmacies to ensure that they align with the Code.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety
A new section of the Code has been included to consider the specific health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A key element of these changes is to ensure health practitioners practice in a ‘culturally safe’ and respectful manner. The Code states that health practitioners must:
- Acknowledge colonisation and systematic racism, social, cultural, behavioural, and economic factors which impact individual and community health;
- Acknowledge and address individual racism, your own biases, assumptions, stereotypes, and prejudices and provide care that is holistic and free of bias and racism;
- Recognise the importance of self-determined decision-making, partnership, and collaboration in healthcare, which is driven by the individual, family, and community; and
- Foster a safe working environment through leadership to support the rights and dignity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and colleagues.
These changes aim to achieve parity in the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and practitioners ought to familiarise themselves with these requirements, with a view to maintain the cultural safety of their patients.
Vexatious Complaints and Investigations
The revised Code now contains expanded provisions pertaining to vexatious complaints against practitioners, which reinforces the position that a complaint made without substance, or with an intent to cause distress, detriment, or harassment to another practitioner, which are not motivated by genuine concerns for patient safety, may result in regulatory action by the National Board.
There has been a recent spike in the number of investigations into the conduct of pharmacists over the preceding years, and in this regard, it is imperative that pharmacists understand their rights and obligations in responding to the relevant regulatory body, particularly where a vexatious complaint may have been made against them.
Bullying and Harassment
The Code now provides further information and specific definitions for practitioners in relation to their obligations to respond to discrimination, bullying, and harassment in the workplace. These include newly introduced grounds for the National Boards to impose conditions, or accept undertakings from practitioners, in the event such conduct impacts public safety.
It is important that all health practitioners familiarise themselves with the recent changes made to the Code given the increasing level of scrutiny placed on the conduct of health practitioners in recent years. In particular, proprietor pharmacists should be sure to take active steps to review their policies and procedures currently implemented in their practices to ensure they are consistent with the new standards imposed by the Code.
If you would like to better understand your rights and obligations or would like to seek any legal advice with respect to your pharmacy business, please contact the pharmacy team at Long Saad Woodbridge Lawyers.
Important Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.