Pharmacists are accessible, qualified and highly skilled – so why are they referred to as ‘script monkeys’, asks Geoff March
The role of a community pharmacist has traditionally focused on supplying medicines, but they now have the skills to help people use medicines safely and effectively, to reduce medicine-related harm.
However it has been a long-running complaint that pharmacists working on the frontline do not have the time and necessary support to work directly with patients to optimise the quality use of medicines.
Professional Pharmacists Australia recently submitted a series of recommendations to be added to the King’s Inquiry’s interim report, reviewing the way pharmacy is regulated and remunerated.
The King Review acknowledges this barrier to better care and proposes a new Minimum Standard Service model to allow pharmacists to work more effectively with patients.
The service model would be based on PSA and PBA dispensing guidelines/standards and would require the pharmacist to follow a clearly enunciated process, namely take/check a medication history, dispense safely, provide relevant information/advice for safe and effective use, and offer to monitor outcomes (including checking if patient compliance is satisfactory).
Every PBS agent will be required to ensure the practice conducted in the pharmacy is consistent with this standard.
The Panel then makes a range of recommendations to support the pharmacist to achieve this standard, including maximising the use of the MyHealth card as a form of inter-professional communication, and altering the current remuneration system so that pharmacies would complete on the basis of the quality of their services rather than price of prescriptions, amongst other initiatives.
We know our members want the opportunity to practise in a more professional manner and the Minimum Standard Service model outlined in the Panel’s report offers one important opportunity.
Pharmacists already contribute substantially to the effectiveness of the health system but it’s clear the current system does not make the best use of pharmacists’ unique skills.
In the debate around the independent King Review final recommendations, we should carefully consider what changes should be implemented to ensure a quality service is available to help our consumers to get the best out of their medicines. Maintaining the status quo is not an option.
Geoff March is the President of Professional Pharmacists Australia.