Industry failing young pharmacists: PPA

Young pharmacists – pharmacist gives medicine to patient over counter

Professional Pharmacists Australia believes that the way pharmacy is currently structured is failing young pharmacists and is not fully utilising their skills.

This failure is occurring at the same time as the community, with an ageing population and growing health issues, needs many services that pharmacy can provide, PPA says.

PPA believes that reform is long overdue in community pharmacy in Australia. There are new models of pharmacy in Scotland and New Zealand that have seen pharmacy reinvigorated, by focusing more on healthcare solutions than retail.

“We believe strongly that the future of pharmacy rests in serving the community,” PPA says.

“In a period of increasing student numbers, further workforce analysis and discussion between pharmacy groups is required to explore the impact of increasing numbers of graduates, and to decide on what steps are required to address this issue.”

Rebuilding pharmacy can only be achieved if all stakeholders in pharmacy are involved and engaged in the process, PPA says.

The group is advocating for a whole-of-pharmacy approach to considering and forming the future of pharmacy. Factors it wants to discuss and address include:

• Student numbers
In Australia in 1985 there were 338 pharmacy graduates. By September 2014 there were 1,925. Similarly, in 2002 there were only six schools of pharmacy in Australia, however in 2014 there are now 19 universities delivering pharmacy courses.

• Pharmacist numbers
In less than 20 years the number of pharmacists in Australia has risen from around 13,000 to 27,226 (March 2013), with 50% of these pharmacists under 35 years (Pharmacy Board of Australia).

• Pharmacy needs to move beyond the “four walls”
PPA says an essential element of building a more sustainable pharmacy sector is the need for employment avenues for pharmacists to be expanded beyond the “four walls”. It says there is a need for pharmacists in GP clinics, aged care facilities and advanced practice pathways, as well as providing more HMRs and RMMRs. These could put pharmacy on a more sustainable footing and create strong career pathways where there are limited options at present, PPA says.

PPA plants to participate in discussing the impact of graduate numbers at a workshop of national pharmacy organisations in April to discuss areas such as student numbers and workforce needs.

PPA also says it believes that suggestions lifting accreditation standards for intern preceptors, improving the quality of intern positions, and better integrating pharmacists’ role in primary and secondary health care should be discussed as part of any solution that addresses the impact the current number of graduates is having on community pharmacy.

“Unless pharmacists’ roles are expanded so more pharmacists are needed, urgent measures should be implemented to reduce the number of pharmacy graduates as one strategy to stop the downward pressure of wages.”

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