Pessimism across community pharmacy has lowered, with the latest Pharmacy Barometer revealing higher wages and increased owner optimism about pharmacy values
The latest UTS Community Pharmacy Barometer surveyed a sample of 364 pharmacists in November 2019, with the sample representative of the Australian community pharmacy sector.
Due to the timing, the data reflects Australian community pharmacist sentiment prior to the consecutive crises of 2020 that have significantly impacted the sector, including the devastating bushfires and once-in-a-lifetime COVID-19 pandemic, and it also precedes the signing of the 7CPA.
Participants reported working in community pharmacy for the majority of the time, and were either an owner or owner-manager (50%), pharmacist-in-charge/pharmacy manager (34%) or employed pharmacist (16%).
The questionnaire also captured the type of pharmacy in which the pharmacist worked: independent (45%), banner (40%) or buying group (15%).
The UTS Pharmacy Barometer score was 109 out of 200—the highest confidence seen yet since the Barometer’s first wave in April 2012.
In fact it is the first time in the history of the barometer with a rating over 100.
Pessimism highlighted in wave 3 and 4 is “long gone” with increasing confidence being demonstrated from wave 6—just after the 6CPA was signed—onwards, said the UTS researchers.
The measure was derived using the following questions:
Do you believe the value of your pharmacy will increase, decrease or remain the same in the next year?
Do you believe the value of your pharmacy will increase, decrease or remain the same in the next 3 years?
On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is extremely pessimistic and 10 is extremely optimistic, how confident are you in the future viability of community-based pharmacy?
The first two questions were only asked of ‘decision makers’ (owner, owner- managers and pharmacist-in-charge/ pharmacy manager n=305), while the third was asked of all pharmacists (n=364). For the calculation of the Barometer measure, only those who answered all three questions were included (n=248).
This ninth wave of the annual survey reveals a slight uptick in optimism about the future viability of community-based pharmacy, with 21% of respondents saying they are optimistic (up from 19% in 2018) and 63% remaining neutral on the topic (down from 65% in 2018), with the remaining 15% reporting pessimism.
However when breaking down numbers by pharmacist type, it is owners/owner-managers who report higher levels in confidence while employed pharmacists are more neutral on the topic, with some veering towards pessimism.
The report explains: “A small group of pharmacists remain pessimistic about the future viability of community pharmacy; however, the trend indicates that pharmacists while still overall neutral report increased optimism.”
“Traditionally, community pharmacists are a pessimistic group, so even a small trend towards optimism is encouraging,” said pharmacist John Bell, a specialist practitioner and teacher at the UTS Graduate School of Health.
“An expectation that the next Community Pharmacy Agreement will maintain the stability of the last couple of years has probably increased confidence.”
UTS Head of Pharmacy Kylie Williams added: “With less people who are unsure, it appears that uncertainty for pharmacists is slightly decreased.”
Professor Williams suggested the increase in optimism during 7CPA negotiations revealed pharmacy owners in particular must be confident in the outcomes from the negotiations.
Emeritus Professor Charlie Benrimoj, former Head of the Graduate School of Health, said: “Pharmacist confidence is rising; this is being driven by an increase confidence and certainty from pharmacy owners probably due to the success and stability brought about by the 6CPA and a hopefulness that will continue to occur in the 7CPA.”
“The first time the barometer has ever exceeded 100 appear[ed] to be driven by the increased valuation of the owners, not necessarily by the confidence of the whole cohort,” postulated UTS Adjunct Professor John Montgomery.
For example, there was a 5% increase in the amount of owner/owner-managers and pharmacist-in-charge/pharmacy managers who believed that the value of their pharmacy would increase in the next 12 months.
The predicted average value increase owner/owner managers are expecting to encounter over a 12-month period remains consistent over the last three waves of the barometer at 15%.
Meanwhile 42% of respondents indicated that their level of remuneration had changed in the previous 12 months, up 12% compared to 2018.
Owners/owner managers who indicated yes, no or not sure (n=180) to the question ‘has the remuneration level of your pharmacist employee (or if you are an employed pharmacist) changed in the last year?’ were asked to specify the average hourly rate for employee pharmacists.
A greater proportion of pharmacists are earning between $40 to $50 per hour compared with previous barometers, according to the results.
The upper end of remuneration is also growing with 3% of pharmacists reporting wages between $50 to $60 per hour and 1% earning over $60 per hour (compared to 0% for both categories in 2018).
“Pharmacists are starting to feel that their efforts are now more adequately reflected in their remuneration,” commented Dr Victoria Garcia Cardenas, Senior lecturer in Pharmacy Practice at UTS, on the results.
However PSA director Warwick Plunkett added: “There are also other contributing factors to the rise in pay; also attributed to increasing difficulty to find pharmacists to work in rural and remote areas and a number of graduates having left the profession due to previously low wages.”
“There’s still room for improvement at the top end but we are heading in the right direction,” said Professor Benrimoj.
More to come