New roles blocked by pay, workload worries

Stressed pharmacist in dispensary

Worry about pay and increased workloads may be holding pharmacists back from engaging in expanded roles, an AJP survey suggests.

Last week the AJP asked readers whether they would be keen to expand into professional services such as providing some repeat prescriptions, vaccinating and working with GPs to help patients manage chronic conditions, as suggested by Grattan Institute leader Dr Stephen Duckett.

The Pharmacy Guild welcomed his suggestions, while the AMA was perhaps predictably outraged.

Close to 200 readers responded to the AJP poll, but only 21 (11%) answered, “Yes, I’m keen to participate in all of these areas”.

Another 39% said they were interested, but had concerns: 5% were worried their workload would increase, 10% were worried they wouldn’t be paid more, and 24% said they had both pay and workload concerns.

A whopping 48% answered that they were not interested in moving into these expanded areas, because of pay and/or workload concerns.

Only 2% said they were not keen to expand their role regardless.

“Unless we are getting decent extra money for the extra role, we don’t want it,” reader Walter responded to the original article on Dr Duckett’s suggestions.

And United We Stand wrote, “Please stop giving us more things to do. $26/hr doesn’t justify the level of expertise you expect from us.”

Reader Cameron Walls wrote in our forum that he has concerns about the areas being expanded, particularly vaccination.

“I’m concerned that the way these new services are introduced mean that many pharmacy owners will expect these services to be done on top of what we already do without supplying the resources (training, time, staff, space, IT, advertising, etc) that are needed to complete them,” he wrote.

“Then when the services don’t succeed, we are blamed.”

But Jarrod McMaugh wrote, “With expanded services, this will create new areas of employment: from a basic supply and demand model, this means there’ll be more demand for pharmacists, so your wage demands can increase with a higher chance that they’ll be met.”


Essential debate

Pharmacy Guild Victorian Branch president Anthony Tassone told the AJP that the debate around the sustainability of our health system is essential to have.

“It’s been well documented that pharmacists are an underutilised health professional within the health workforce, and any expanded role by pharmacists should be underpinned by appropriate resourcing and support to ensure an optimal consumer and patient experience,” he told the AJP.

“There is vast international experience of pharmacists providing great benefit for patients and consumers with expanded roles. It just makes sense to ensure that our health workforce practices to the top of their scope and are best utilised.

“The Pharmacy Board has guidelines with regard to dispensary workloads, and we would encourage all pharmacist owners to be familiar with those guidelines.

“Ultimately we want to provide a health service that provides optimal patient outcomes and appropriate support for our staff and teams to deliver those outcomes.”

Tassone warns that deregulation of the pharmacy sector, particularly ownership, would not help improve pay and conditions for pharmacists.

“Given the recent media coverage of Boots in the UK and the harrowing stories of pharmacist experiences within that group, I cannot see any evidence that a deregulated ownership would provide benefits for pharmacists in terms of their workload or the patient experience.”

“I think it’s important to differentiate between expanding their workload, and expanding their role,” says Pharmacist of the Year Noel Fosbery.

“I think there’s a fundamental difference there and I expect most employers wouldn’t expect pharmacists to extend their workload. I certainly don’t.

“In theory what should happen is a greater demand for pharmacists to cover the extra roles, therefore there would be pressure on the number of pharmacists needed, and therefore upward pressure on wages.

“I think it’s unfair to say that we’re expecting them to do more work. The way I look at it is we’re expanding their roles, and their training, and certainly their professional satisfaction.”

Fosbery told the AJP that pharmacists need to consider looking beyond the dispensary, as in the future it is likely that technology and online services will fill the supply role. As it stands, much of this work is handled increasingly by dispensary technicians.

He says he has seen many of his pharmacists “really blossom” in professional services and other customer-facing roles.

“They’re really excited about it. And that’s what the profession is – we need to be making a difference to our clients, and to the health of Australia, rather than just filling an order.”

Previous Getting fluent with vaccination
Next Pharmacists' role in oral health

NOTICE: It can sometimes take awhile for comment submissions to go through, please be patient.