Many submissions, many views

Joe Demarte, PSA national president

Review submission quantities reveal a somewhat disparate and divided profession, says Joe Demarte, PSA national president

The many submissions responding to the Discussion Paper released by the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation (the King Review) show how many disparate views and competing interests exist within various sections of our profession.

Whilst it is reasonable that member-based organisations representing specific groups within the profession advocate on behalf of their individual memberships, as I have said on numerous occasions previously, PSA must necessarily take a broader view.

It represents pharmacists in all sectors of the profession and this is why PSA can be the only body to be considered as the peak pharmacy body.

If nothing else, the submissions to the King Review show the intense level of dissatisfaction and concern within the profession at present, where young pharmacists struggle with low wages – and more particularly job dissatisfaction.

Further, community pharmacy owners are financially under the pump from a number of areas including discounting and PBS reform, while other sectors recognise and sense that the profession has lost the position of pre-eminence that it has previously enjoyed.

Ownership and location rules get a good going over from all perspectives, and of course needless to say, everybody has their own solution to fix the myriad of other issues that are bounced back and forth.

Meanwhile, the Review Panel has been crystal clear about what it is seeking to do.

It is seeking ways that pharmacy and pharmacists can assist government to provide positive health outcomes for the Australian community, now and into the future. It is primarily a consumer-focussed review.

From the outset PSA framed its submission in the context that the review is an opportunity to explore innovative ways all pharmacists can contribute to Australia’s health system and optimise healthcare for consumers into the future.

You will note that I said ALL pharmacists.

As far as I am concerned a pharmacist is a pharmacist regardless of where they work and this will become more important with the passage of time, with pharmacists being able to practice in a broader variety of settings than is currently the case.

For example, an employee in community pharmacy today may be a hospital pharmacist or an owner tomorrow – or a pharmacist in GP clinic, and after that a pharmacist doing HMRs or perhaps practising in an aged care setting or in an aboriginal health service setting. Potentially they could be dividing their time between several settings. Who knows what else?

But one thing is certain, what will determine whether these roles are sustainable will depend on one thing – Do they provide positive health outcomes for the Australian Community?

Pharmacists are not seeking to be doctors. All we are trying to do is work more closely with GPs and other health professional to get better health outcomes for consumers.

PSA has been at pains to make it clear that every initiative we put forward in our submission is already within the full scope of pharmacist practice.

This review has the potential to deliver better result for consumers by using the enthusiasm, youth and skills of Australia’s pharmacist more productively.

On a final note, claims that pharmacists are conflicted by selling complementary medicines are pushing the envelope too far. There is plenty of need for evidence-based advice in this area, and if not pharmacists giving this advice, then who? Supermarket checkout staff, health food shops or –heaven forbid –the internet?

Perhaps doctors could do it!


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