‘No such thing as a non-professional service pharmacist’: Guild

One fifth of pharmacies employ a dedicated professional services pharmacist: Guild says concept shouldn’t exist, PSA calls for more funding for roles

The recently published UTS Pharmacy Barometer asked 178 pharmacy owners and owner managers whether they employed a pharmacist dedicated mainly to the provision of non-dispensing professional services.

One fifth (19%) of pharmacy owners and owner managers indicated that they employed a professional services pharmacist, however the majority (81%) did not.

“Over time we can expect to see this number grow as the positions become more viable,” said PSA director and past president Warwick Plunkett.

We asked the same question of our readers, extending the poll to pharmacist employees.

Over two weeks, 301 AJP readers responded to the poll.

The results almost exactly reflected those of the UTS Pharmacy Barometer survey.

When asked whether their pharmacy has a dedicated professional services pharmacist, an overwhelming 80% (240 votes) of respondents said “no”.

However one fifth (20%, 61 votes) of respondents say “yes”, their workplace has a dedicated professional services pharmacist.

The Pharmacy Guild says the concept of a pharmacist being hired mainly for the provision of professional services, outside of dispensing, should not exist.

“The most frequently performed professional service in pharmacy in Australia is the dispensing of a prescription,” Guild acting national president Trent Twomey told AJP.

“The other professional programs are extensions of this core service. 

“All pharmacists need to be performing all of these tasks, so all Australians have the same level of access,” said Mr Twomey.

“All pharmacists are professional service pharmacists. There is no such thing as a non-professional service pharmacist.”

Some AJP readers agreed that it should not be an exclusive role.

“I think the point is being missed,” pharmacy business expert Bruce Annabel said of the topic.

“The best way to explain that is from my experiences: all pharmacists working in the pharmacies I’m associated with are professional service pharmacists who also deliver professional services. Simply allocating one pharmacist with the role doesn’t work particularly well.”

Meanwhile the PSA called for more money to be injected into the pharmacy sector so that more professional services pharmacists can exist.

PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman told AJP that the poll results “highlight the disparity from the desired evolution of community pharmacists to be more focused on health service delivery and what the current environment looks like, creating a sense of professional frustration in the sector”.

“Fundamentally this stems from a lack of funding for services, making these roles often financially unsustainable in many community pharmacies,” said Dr Freeman.

“We must see greater levels of investment from the Community Pharmacy Agreement to fund and help support pharmacists deliver these valuable and critical health services to the community.

“Without this investment, community pharmacies will not be able to support pharmacists in this role more widely across the sector … We simply can’t keep doing more for less.”

PSA’s comments address the concerns of reader Steve Flavel, who argued that the concept of a dedicated professional services pharmacist isn’t currently financially viable.

“Considering the funding for professional services has essentially come out of the decreased remuneration from dispensing via price disclosure, it is disappointing that the alleged payback of funds through the delivery of professional services should come at the cost of another pharmacist on the payroll,” said Mr Flavel.

“Seriously, how many small pharmacies do you think are going to remain in existence if a dedicated ‘Professional service Pharmacist’ is expected to be the norm?”

Paul Sapardanis said of the current situation: “Funding for these new roles is so low that it is not viable to hire a specific pharmacist for this.

“What I am finding is that pharmacies that had 2 or more pharmacists at any one time have converted one of these pharmacists into the new role (or at least partly).

“The other pharmacist(s) are then asked to carry a greater traditional role to offset the loss (partial) of a colleague. Single pharmacist pharmacies have not had the ability to do this and have therefore missed out on this opportunity.”

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