Pay doesn’t reflect qualifications, social benefit: Quilty

hand out for money - coins in palm

Pharmacist pay may not adequately reflect the value of pharmacists’ work nor the education required to practice, says Guild executive director David Quilty

In this week’s edition of Forefront, Quilty writes that pharmacist remuneration is a complex issue, with a range of contributing factors.

“Traditional professions like teaching and nursing have long been concerned that their remuneration levels do not reflect the qualifications required to practice or the value of the work they do,” he writes.

“This trend is now extending to other health professions, including pharmacists, and even GPs and dentists.

“It may reflect the fact that much of the funding that sustains these professions ultimately comes from government. At the same time, removing the caps on university places is increasing the supply of graduates, although there continues to be evidence of under-supply in some rural and remote areas.”

Pharmacy owners have a significant interest in sustaining the future of the profession, Quilty says, and pay, graduate numbers and emerging pharmacy models need to be considered.

“It’s unsurprising that there is a growing debate about the future of the pharmacist profession, including a focus on the current levels of pharmacist remuneration,” Quilty writes.
“The Pharmacy Guild welcomes this debate and has a keen interest in these issues from a number of perspectives.”

He points out that before becoming owners, Guild members trained to be pharmacists, most worked as employees, and most owners continue to practice in their pharmacies on a regular basis.

“Guild members know the success of their pharmacy businesses inherently depend upon the skills, commitment and professionalism of their staff, particularly their fellow pharmacists,” Quilty writes.

“This will be even more so in the evolving community pharmacy environment, with the viability of pharmacy businesses depending upon patient-centred, health solutions that go beyond the traditional dispensary.    

“Guild members also know that their current pharmacist staff are often the likely future owners of their businesses. As business proprietors, they are acutely aware of the need for sustainable succession planning and ownership pathways for their fellow pharmacists.

“For all these reasons, community pharmacy owners have a real and abiding interest in securing a bright future for the pharmacist profession.”

Quilty writes that the emergence and success of the discount pharmacy model and the impact of price disclosure have increased the focus on reducing pharmacy costs, while technological change is automating and systematising some traditional pharmacist roles.

“A growing number of pharmacies are responding to these trends by seeking to diversify their revenue bases, with a focus on delivering patient services that utilise the skills of pharmacists. 

“The Guild believes it is in the interests of the broad pharmacy sector to develop a coherent workforce strategy that focuses on financially sustainable solutions that advance the long-term interests of the pharmacist profession.”

This strategy should be fully informed by a thorough analysis of the best available workforce and wages data to develop an evidence-based understanding of the key issues and trends, he says.

It could build upon the learnings of previous research with a greater focus on future demand of pharmacists in varying roles and responsibilities, graduate numbers and the overall supply of pharmacists. 

“A strong argument can be made that the Federal Government should contribute to this task as they do for other professions where they have a direct interest, including medicine and nursing,” Quilty writes. 

“The development of a workforce strategy commenced last year with the Workforce Summit organised by the Monash Pharmacist Project under the leadership of Professor John Jackson and supported by the Guild, the PSA and other pharmacy organisations and industry leaders, including the APLF, which is chaired by Professor Iqbal Ramzan.

“The Summit produced a report that can provide the platform for the future development of a workforce strategy and implementation plan. Reinvigorating this work would not only be very timely in terms of the current debate on the future of the pharmacist profession but could also align with the current strong focus on workforce development by international organisations like FIP.”

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