Extreme workloads ‘a major problem’: PSA

Pharmacists need more time to be able to do their professional role of medication dispensing appropriately, says the member organisation

The PSA has responded to a statement from the Pharmacy Council of NSW highlighting that pharmacists are under pressure from extreme workloads, as reported this week by the AJP.

“Too often, we hear about the pressures pharmacists are under with extreme workloads, such as high script numbers (up to 400-500 per day) with only a single pharmacist on duty [and] professional services (e.g. vaccinations, MedsChecks) being delivered when the pharmacy is understaffed,” said the council.

“Extreme workloads are often a contributing factor to pharmacist errors occurring and complaints being made. While it is great to see pharmacists expanding their professional service offerings, a quality and safe service cannot be assured without appropriate staffing levels.”

PSA says that as the peak national body representing pharmacists, it has received anecdotal evidence about increasingly high workloads.

“We take the impact of high workloads on the professional practice of pharmacists very seriously,” the organisation told AJP.

“We know that high workloads place pressure on some pharmacists and this can contribute to sub-optimal outcomes, including error.

“This is an issue that affects the whole profession and is making it hard for pharmacists to provide the best possible care,” says the PSA.

“Extreme workloads across health professional groups, including pharmacists are one of the factors affecting medicine safety, which is a major problem with an estimated 230,000 medication-related hospital admissions in Australia each year.

“We also recognise that there is a maldistribution of pharmacists, especially in rural and remote Australia, which contributes to this high workload for pharmacists.”

Pharmacists need more time to be able to do their job, says the PSA.

Pharmacists need more time to be able to do their professional role of medication dispensing appropriately.

“We have continually said that pharmacist remuneration needs to transition to a consultation model of care, which would support dispensing and quality use of medicines, and would remove these workload pressures that we hear about in community pharmacy.

“In the coming weeks we will be surveying PSA members so we can understand workload pressures associated with the dispensing of medicines within community pharmacy, as well as desired workloads to ensure safe and effective dispensing of medicines.”

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  1. Philip Smith

    More lip service.

    No indication of a direction or how a pharmacist in the middle of a job doing excessive scripts daily (200+) should approach the situation without losing their job.

    I await the next article from (insert leading body here) with more fist banging on the table and then tea and biscuits served after the fracas and nothing changes.

    • Notachemist

      The situation needs to be addressed initially by a conversation with the employer to see if they are willing to employ extra staff. If not it is usually best to walk away from a job like that. There are other pharmacy job opportunities out there. It is a matter for each individual to decide however if employees decided not to work in these roles without extra staff the employer would need to take action to address the situation.

      • Peter Crothers

        Don’t agree. To prevent further lip-service there should be a set of measurable and enforceable standards with random inspections and severe penalties for employers. Such standards would need to be quite sophisticated, to cover the varying scenarios that occur in pharmacy practice, because – let’s face it – pharmacy ACTUALLY IS complex and sophisticated. I say this as an owner/employer.

        • Notachemist

          That would be ideal but that level of regulation is unlikely to ever occur. Bruce has some good advice. However employee pharmacists who are working in “sweat shop” conditions without “permission” to change workflow or address workload need to leave and go and work where their expertise is recognised and valued.

          • Paul Sapardanis

            Kicks the can down the road to the next pharmacist. Regulators need to do more because 1. It’s in the public interest and 2, most in our profession want it to

        • Ron Batagol

          I agree with what Peter says.
          Also, bear in mind that here is an additional hidden “elephant in the room” that I have raised many times about this issue, on various previous pharmacy forums. The fact is that, as I understand it, under the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 Section 21, prior to entering a contract of insurance, the insured already has a duty to disclose to the insurer every matter that is known to the insured, being a matter that:
          (a) the insured knows to be a matter relevant to the decision of the insurer whether to accept the risk and, if so, on what terms; or
          (b) a reasonable person in the circumstances could be expected to know to be a matter so relevant.
          The same duty of disclosure applies for renewal, extension, or reinstatement of an insurance contract.
          Clearly, aside from short-term genuine emergency situations, routinely dispensing in a manner that ” a reasonable person” would agree, increases the risk of a dispensing error with a potentially adverse health outcome, could be construed as a breach of disclosure in an indemnity insurance contract!
          Now, I know none of us want to go there, but it does underline the importance of collectively working to try to solve the problem. Certainly, some of Bruce’s suggestions are a good way to start!

          • Paul Sapardanis

            Interesting thought Ron. Just as it is required to have professional indemnity insurance to be registered it therefore should be required to practice in a manner that your insurance will cover. Maybe the regulators need to remind us

        • The Cynic

          It is fantastic to hear an employer take a stand like you Peter. More power to you!!

  2. Bruce ANNABEL

    It doesn’t need to be like this as some readers know well. The solution is fundamental practice change that many have embraced and would never go back to the dispensing chemist approach. Delegate the administrative dispensary work that others can do as well or better in some cases and work with the patients. This can be done initially at little cost by tasking existing assistants to carry out that admin work while the pharmacists are freed to handle script out, counsel, provide CMI (I’m yet to lay eyes on one), deliver professional service(s) and help patients. Many of you will retort that ‘I don’t have time and/or you don’t understand’. Well I can point to many pharmacies who made the changes which laid the foundation of extraordinary success. This approach also lifts pharmacist productivity followed by remuneration and the patients respect the ‘professional service’ they receive. It’s not hard but the ‘culture of pharmacist’ fixated on a technical role holds back what seems to be such a minor yet critical innovative step. As my triathlon coach says ‘If it is to be it’s up to me’

    • Paul Sapardanis

      Bruce it is the use of the professional services that you bring up as a marketing tool by major banners as a lost leader that is holding it back. Most pharmacies do this but at a sub economic level. eg free BP tests vaccinations sub $10. $1 NDSS transactions free DAA’s. Until my colleagues realize that it is not working as a promotion of their retail offering than the status quo will remain.

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