Looking to the future

future crystal ball

SHPA report recommends boosting collaborative prescribing and specialised roles, and strategies to combat the negative image of community pharmacy on careers

The Society of Hospital Pharmacy’s new report – Pharmacy Forecast Australia 2021 – has laid out a series of recommendations aimed at directing the future roles and structures for pharmacy practice.  

The report covered six themes: Workforce of the future, Workforce resourcing, Reliability of supply, Medication complexity and access, Medication safety, and Electronic revolution

Responses were received from 59 panelists, from across all Australian states and territories. Most of the panelists (97%) had been in practice for greater than ten years, and 47% had been in practice for
greater than 20 years. Most held the title of Chief or Director of Pharmacy and worked in the public sector.

Focusing on workforce, the report found that respondents “were somewhat ambivalent regarding the topic of whether there will be a surplus of candidates for pharmacy roles and if this surplus will constitute ‘appropriately skilled’ candidates.

Seventy-eight per cent of responses were uncertain, although within this, a positive perspective was more likely”.

The authors said that “perhaps the greatest driver of uncertainty is the concept of ‘appropriately skilled’.

“Pharmacy lacks a visible, uniform, structured framework for establishing the skills required for the wide variety of hospital pharmacy practice – from specialist clinical roles to roles in policy, medication safety, and digital informatics – and most of these specialty roles are filled based on experience rather than credentials”.

The pharmacy workforce is at a nexus of competing factors, they said:

  • a large workforce with a ready supply of new entrants (for now)
  • record low levels of morale in sectors of the profession
  • diversification of practice into a wide range of specialties, but with an unrefined approach to assurance of skills and credentials
  • the emerging availability of new tools such as SHPA Foundation Residency to support the development of new-to-practice pharmacists.

“Regarding the duties carried out by the workforce of the future, collaborative prescribing was chosen as the most important emerging practice for surveying, given its recent endorsement by SHPA in its medication safety position statement… “

However the authors noted that “responses to this question were disappointingly uncertain given the
recognised importance of this practice”.

Looking at workforce access, the  authors said the “changing focus of healthcare directed to delivering services in non-traditional areas and the increasing complexity of an aging population continue to challenge healthcare providers”. 

“Multiple digital enhancements to the way we work may create the extra efficiencies in the system needed to re-deploy the workforce to meet these demands with careful planning, understanding of the healthcare environment, and incorporation of automation into new facility designs wherever possible”.

Their recommendations for the workforce included: 

Collaborative prescribing
“Given it can be adopted without requiring regulatory change, pharmacy leaders should familiarise themselves, their pharmacy teams, and their medical colleagues with PPMC and consider the best means of adopting it into their organisation’s processes”.

Leadership competency
“Pharmacy leaders should use networks such as the SHPA Management and Leadership Specialty Practice Group to share information about leadership education and training”. 

Availability of a skilled workforce
“Pharmacy leaders should consider how to promote a career in hospital pharmacy more broadly, as low morale in community pharmacy impacts the general perception of pharmacy as a career, and hospital pharmacy is currently only ‘visible’ for students well into their undergraduate degree when clinical placements occur”.

Pharmacy Technician qualifications
“Investment in the ongoing professional development of Australian hospital PTs is required. A full spectrum of roles, responsibilities and associated competency requirements needs to be documented”.

Resourcing specialised clinical services
“Pharmacy leaders should consider developing the evidence base for the impact of expanding pharmacy
services across seven days of the week, and across expanded hours of operation to align with peak admission and discharge times.
Pharmacy leaders should engage with the health service leadership to demonstrate that clinical pharmacists’ impact on patient care is agnostic to setting.” 

*We will next look at the report’s recommendations on medicines supply and access


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1 Comment

  1. (Mary) Kay Dunkley

    An interesting report which provides useful insights however the panellists represent a very narrow section of the pharmacy workforce which no doubt results in bias in their outlook. A broader input would be more valuable. The sub-heading may not be representative of the contents of the report but is not a helpful statement as it implies elitism and a divided profession. We are one profession and need to work together and collaborate for the benefit of the Australian community.

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