‘Community pharmacy simply must have a central role.’

Bushfire smoke at Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra. Image by Simon Troman.
Bushfire smoke at Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra. Image by Simon Troman.

A new report shows huge support for community pharmacy following 2020’s many challenges, and the Guild says the sector’s key role needs recognition

New data from Roy Morgan has shown that customer satisfaction for the “chemists and pharmacies” category is very high – it’s the third most popular category of 32 listed by the consumer data provider.

Chemists/pharmacies scored a total of 90.5% when it came to customer satisfaction, after car manufacturers (92.3%) and hardware stores (90.8%).

Next in line were clothing stores (90.2%), department stores and liquor stores (89.8% each) as well as discount department stores, at 89.4%.

Coming last were retail super funds (consumers) at 60%, industry super funds (consumers) at 64.4% and risk and life insurers at 65.1%.

“Nearly halfway through 2020 it’s fair to say this year has presented some unprecedented challenges to many Australians,” Roy Morgan Research said on Tuesday.

“The year began with devastating bushfires raging across much of Australia with millions of hectares burned and the loss of thousands of homes around the country.

“Over the summer holiday period regional towns were under severe threat and there were striking images on a daily basis, particularly from hard hit regions in South-Eastern NSW and Eastern Victoria.

“Dozens of Australians were killed by the fires, but the Royal Commission into the Bushfires convened in recent weeks has heard the biggest ‘killer’ from the fires was the smoke that blanketed Australian cities for days, and sometimes weeks, on end.

“An estimated 445 Australians were killed by the smoke haze and up to 80% of Australians were affected by the smoke at some point.

“This smoky haze forced many Australians to wear masks to protect their respiratory systems and also provided a preview of what would happen only weeks later as COVID-19 struck.

“Suddenly masks were the hot item to own, as well as a copious supply of hand sanitiser, gloves – particularly sanitary gloves, and of course toilet paper – all of which are (usually) available at your local chemist or pharmacy.”

The latest research from Roy Morgan conducted in the year to March 2020 shows that 12 million Australians (57%) shop at pharmacies in an average four weeks.

The leading stores including Priceline Pharmacy, My Chemist, TerryWhite Chemmart and Chemist Warehouse each have well over a million customers.

“This high satisfaction for the industry is across the board and the top eight chemists and pharmacies are separated by a total of only 5% points,” said Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine.

“Australia’s handling of COVID-19 has generally been regarded as one of the world’s best and perhaps this should be no surprise as prior to the pandemic Australia was rated the nation fourth most equipped to deal with a pandemic. 

“Alongside the highly rated medical system Australia’s health workers such as nurses, doctors and pharmacists are rated as the three most highly trust professions by Australians.

“In turn, the chemists and pharmacies we turn to when we need to patch ourselves up, combat a sore throat, or get a flu shot, are an integral part of the well-functioning health and medical ‘eco-system’ in Australia.

“In an industry with such high satisfaction across the board it is hard to single out brands but so far in 2020 TerryWhite Chemmart has excelled and won the first three Customer Satisfaction Awards. “TerryWhite Chemmart has averaged customer satisfaction of 92% so far in 2020 to be just ahead of Chemist Warehouse, Priceline Pharmacy, Amcal and Guardian – all averaging at least 89%.”

Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, said that these results “help further validate the long held view that the Australian public trust their local pharmacist, are satisfied with the service and care they receive from the local pharmacy – and are receptive towards their community pharmacy offering other health services with vaccinations being a primary example”.

“The Guild is extremely proud of our members and their teams for the service and care they provided throughout the COVID pandemic,” he told the AJP.

“Community pharmacy continued to turn up, keep their doors open, deal with truly unprecedented events, reassured the public in the face of heightened anxiety and uncertainty and got on with doing what we do best – looking after and delivering care to our communities.

“The Guild strongly believes that community pharmacy simply must have a central role in disaster and emergency planning to help assure continuity of care and access to lifesaving medicines. 

“During the Victorian bushfire crisis, the Guild was included in the Field Emergency Medical Officer response with the Victorian government and Department of Health and Human Services. There were clear benefits and advantages for all stakeholders in having community pharmacy represented.

“We implore other states and territories and at a National level to take a similar approach with community pharmacy in their emergency and disaster response planning to have the right people at the table.”

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