Woolworths ‘health checks’ criticised by PSA

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2 July 2014

Moves by a supermarket chain to provide health checks to consumers within the supermarket environment have been criticised by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

National President of the PSA, Grant Kardachi, said Woolworths had stated it was hiring final year pharmacy students, graduating pharmacists and nurses to conduct health checks such as blood pressure and cholesterol in their stores.

A spokesman for Woolworths was quoted on ABC Radio today saying six stores in New South Wales and Queensland have been trialling a system where nurses and pharmacy students offer customers basic health checks and the scheme would be expanded to other sites across Australia.

Mr Kardachi said the statement by Woolworths that staff providing health checks would not offer medical or product advice and was “just another thing we can do for our customers” was a concern.

“Woolworths then went on to say any customers with readings outside a normal range would be directed to a doctor or pharmacist for further advice, indicating that those providing health check-ups are making health decisions which must be left to fully qualified health professionals operating in an appropriate environment,” Mr Kardachi said.

“Making health decisions without access to medication records is inherently dangerous. It is a concern to PSA that staff who are not fully qualified are being asked to undertake this role.

“This is a very targeted move by Woolworths to introduce pharmacist services into their supermarkets and is totally against the intent of the Ministerial Determination banning pharmacies in supermarkets.

“The fact that Woolworths only recently denied any plans for pharmacies in supermarkets, and then turns around and introduces this scheme is a clear indication that it is not being open and frank about its intentions.

Mr Kardachi reminded graduating pharmacists being targeted by Woolworths that the PSA Code of Ethics had to be observed.

“The PSA Code states that a ‘pharmacist agrees to practise only under conditions which uphold the professional independence, judgement and integrity of themselves or others. A pharmacist will exercise professional autonomy, objectivity and independence and manage actual and potential situations of conflict of interest’,” Mr Kardachi said.

“At no stage has Woolworths sought to engage the PSA or the pharmacy profession in any discussion about this service, its impact on patients or its efficacy. If the company was genuine about wanting to improve health outcomes one would expect their first step would be to talk to pharmacists.

“They have not spoken to pharmacy organisations and this only reinforces the fact that this appears to be a ploy to lure consumers into their supermarkets to sell more products.

“I invite Woolworths and any other supermarket chain to contact PSA to discuss their plans and be open about their intentions.”

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