By national medical reporter Sophie Scott
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has labelled a push by retail giant Woolworths to conduct in-store health checks as an attempt to “hoodwink” shoppers.
Woolworths has confirmed it is 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 said six stores in New South Wales and Queensland have been trialling a system where nurses and pharmacy students offer customers basic health checks.
He has confirmed the scheme will be expanded to other sites across Australia.
He said if any customers have readings outside a normal range, they will be directed to a doctor or pharmacist for medical advice.
In an advertisement on employment website Seek.com, a company called XPO Brands is looking for “final year pharmacy students, graduate pharmacists and entry level nurses” to conduct checks such as blood pressure and cholesterol, and “engage in general health discussions”.
It says it wants someone who is “a real people person and happy to talk to shoppers passing by”.
But the Pharmacy Guild of Australia is concerned about the move, saying it is an attempt by the supermarket to “hoodwink consumers into believing they can get professional pharmacist advice and products from a supermarket”.
Pharmacy businesses are protected by rules that allow them to have a monopoly on dispensing prescription drugs.
The industry has thwarted attempts by the major supermarkets to increase competition and enter the pharmacy market.
The Federal Government recently reconfirmed its commitment that retail giants would not be allowed into pharmacy.
‘Health checks do not provide medical advice’: Woolworths
A spokesman for Woolworths says the staff providing health checks do not offer medical or product advice and are “just another thing we can do for our customers”.
Woolworths says any staff doing the checks have to have experience.
He said shoppers do not need to purchase anything to get the free health check up.
But the Pharmacy Guild says it is worried about whether recruits are suitably qualified to conduct health checks and provide advice on medicines, and whether they are trained in and comply with privacy requirements.
“It’s a hypocritical and frankly a public disservice that a supermarket giant which profits so heavily from retailing tobacco and alcohol products – which are the biggest preventable causes of ill health and death – is claiming to be interested in health care,” the Guild’s George Tambassis said.