Debate over pharmacist remuneration is welcome, says Guild executive director David Quilty
The current debate over the future of the profession is a debate that we had to have – had to have to ensure that we plan the best way forward for the profession and the patients we serve.
Part of this debate includes a strong focus on the current levels of pharmacist remuneration. The Pharmacy Guild welcomes this debate and has a keen interest in these issues from a number of perspectives.
First and foremost, all Guild members are pharmacists. Before becoming owners, they trained to be pharmacists, the vast majority worked as employees, and most owners continue to practice in their pharmacies on a regular basis.
Guild members are passionate about their profession and have a strong commitment to identifying ways to enable pharmacists to fully utilise their skills.
Guild members know the success of their pharmacy businesses inherently depends upon the skills, commitment and professionalism of their staff, particularly their fellow pharmacists. This will be even more so in the evolving community pharmacy environment, with the viability of pharmacy businesses depending upon patient-centred, health solutions that go beyond the traditional dispensary.
Guild members also know that their current pharmacist staff are often the likely future owners of their businesses. As business proprietors, they are acutely aware of the need for sustainable succession planning and ownership pathways for their fellow pharmacists.
For all these reasons, community pharmacy owners have a real and abiding interest in securing a bright future for the pharmacist profession.
Of course, like many issues, the question of pharmacist remuneration is a complex one, with a range of contributing factors.
Traditional professions like teaching and nursing have long been concerned that their remuneration levels do not reflect the qualifications required to practice or the value of the work they do. This trend is now extending to other health professions, including pharmacists, and even GPs and dentists.
It may reflect the fact that much of the funding that sustains these professions ultimately comes from government. At the same time, removing the caps on university places is increasing the supply of graduates, although there continues to be evidence of under-supply in some rural and remote areas.
The onset of the discount pharmacy model and the impact of price disclosure have increased the focus on reducing pharmacy costs while technological change is automating and systematising some traditional pharmacist roles.
A growing number of pharmacies are responding to these trends by seeking to diversify their revenue bases, with a focus on delivering patient services that utilise the skills of pharmacists.
The Guild believes it is in the interests of the broad pharmacy sector to develop a coherent workforce strategy that focuses on financially sustainable solutions that advance the long term interests of the pharmacist profession.
Such a strategy should be fully informed by a thorough analysis of the best available workforce and wages data to develop an evidence-based understanding of the key issues and trends. This work can build upon the learnings of previous research with a greater focus on future demand of pharmacists in varying roles and responsibilities, graduate numbers and the overall supply of pharmacists.
A strong argument can be made that the Federal Government should contribute to this task as they do for other professions where they have a direct interest, including medicine and nursing.
The development of a workforce strategy commenced last year with the Workforce Summit organised by the Monash Pharmacist Project under the leadership of Professor John Jackson and supported by the Guild, the PSA and other pharmacy organisations and industry leaders, including the APLF, which is chaired by Professor Iqbal Ramzan.
The Summit produced a report that can provide the platform for the future development of a workforce strategy and implementation plan. Reinvigorating this work would not only be very timely in terms of the current debate on the future of the pharmacist profession but could also align with the current strong focus on workforce development by international organisations like FIP.
*David Quilty is Executive Director of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia