Benefits seen despite slow uptake of community pharmacist treatment pilot

Accessing treatment at local pharmacies for things like UTIs means cutting out a visit to the GP. Picture: UNSPLASH.

By Mikayla van Loon

Cutting out the middleman to access treatment and medication for common health problems in participating pharmacies has seen a slow uptake in the Yarra Ranges.

The Community Pharmacist Pilot, a State Government initiative, launched late last year, allows people to seek treatment for urinary tract infections (UTI), refill an oral contraceptive pill prescription and receive travel or other vaccines in local pharmacies without having to see a GP.

From March, nearly 730 pharmacies will also offer treatment for mild psoriasis or shingles, the newest expansion of the pilot.

Healesville Walk Pharmacy, one of the participating pharmacies, has been providing these services for UTIs, contraceptives and vaccinations since the start of the year.

“We haven’t seen much of an uptake yet. The pilot itself started I believe it was late last year, but it didn’t roll out in this pharmacy until early this year,” pharmacist Mary said.

Pharmacist at Mt Evelyn Pharmacy Niemy said similarly the uptake and awareness of the program has been “a bit slow” since starting the pilot in December.

Niemy said at this stage Mt Evelyn can only offer the UTI treatment, with the other services to commence in the near future “once the training is completed which will be soon”.

Both Mary and Niemy said for the most part it is women who are inquiring or accessing the services, particularly for UTI treatment.

“Sometimes they’re just desperate for something and we are now in a position where we can recommend antibiotics for certain people,” Mary said.

“It’s not something that a pharmacist can do for everyone. There’s very strict criteria but yeah, they usually come in straight up asking for antibiotics or just asking ‘what can I do to help with my UTI?”

The State Government figures have also shown that women are more likely to access these services, with 2000 women seeking care from a pharmacy out of the 3700 total Victorians.

Niemy said the benefits for people who are unable to get an appointment with a doctor but are in need of quick relief has been invaluable.

“One patient suffered severe UTI symptoms and was unable to access a doctor the same day. She was treated with antibiotics and was better soon after and didn’t need to see a GP at all.”

For Mary, seeing the impact across more regional areas where access to a GP may be limited has shown the need for this pilot program to continue.

“I work in two pharmacies. So I work in Healesville and Yea. I know in Yea it’s more of an issue where there’s just no services on weekends,” she said.

“So there’s no chance that people can get in to see a doctor, especially their regular doctor unless they’re going via the online route, which can have a long waiting time. So it’s definitely beneficial for people just to really get in and get started and get better.”

While still working through getting all the current available services set up, Niemy said expanding to offer the shingles treatment might be a possibility.

“There is room in the pharmacy to expand the services and we are reviewing whether to offer the shingles vaccination. [We’re] still deciding.”

The services provided by pharmacists are completely free to the patient with $20 million in funding from the government. Any prescriptions required will require payment from the patient just as those from a GP would be.

The pilot will run until October 2024 where it will then be evaluated, with long term recommendations put forward.

For more information on the Community Pharmacist Pilot or to locate a participating pharmacy in the Yarra Ranges, visit