The number of GP pharmacists has more than doubled over the past few years, and is expected to grow further alongside the Workforce Incentive Program
Changes to the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) came into force on 1 February 2020, including pharmacists for the first time.
The WIP better targets incentives to address workforce requirements in specific areas, giving patients in rural, regional and remote areas improved access to quality medical, nursing and allied health services.
Importantly for pharmacy, the definition of “allied health professionals” now includes non-dispensing pharmacists who may undertake a range of activities including medication reviews, patient and staff education, and responding to medicine information queries.
This pathway is expected to grow the number of pharmacists working in general practice.
The PSA’s last survey in 2017 recorded nearly 50 pharmacists working in general practice, according to national president Chris Freeman.
“Since then there have been a number of PHN projects, practices privately employing pharmacists and the commencement of the WIP,” he says.
For example, PSA has a number of PHN projects where it has placed pharmacists in general practice, including in WA (within the WA Primary Health Alliance) and in SA (with the country SA PHN).
“We would estimate the number [of GP pharmacists] is now in excess of 100,” says A/Prof Freeman.
“We expect that this model will continue to grow year on year becoming a mainstream pathway for pharmacist practice.”
While the number is growing every year, this is still a small amount, representing less than 1% of the 29,189 pharmacists with general registration in Australia.
Both the PSA and the AMA have called on the Federal government in their Budget Submissions for 2020-21 to lift the caps on subsidies available through the WIP, allowing even further employment of pharmacists.
“We estimate integrating pharmacists into general practice would yield a net saving of $544.87 million to the health system over four years,” A/Prof Freeman says.
“In the meantime, PSA would encourage general practices and pharmacists to consider the opportunity the current expansion of the WIP creates and consider how they can work together to improve health outcomes in their local community.”
New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK also have pharmacists providing services in general practice settings.