Why do those conducting industry reviews feel that pharmacists are so easily pushed aside? wonders Carlene McMaugh

Pharmacy is currently the subject of a number of government and industry reviews: the Productivity Commission is recommending that pharmacists can be replaced by robotic dispensers. The King Review is looking at what services we are providing to better understand pharmacy and how it should be reimbursed.

It makes me wonder: what is it about pharmacy that is so mystifying?

Why are we as healthcare professionals so easily replaced by robotic dispensers? This view undermines the relationships and counselling we provide to our patients; the medication issues  we identify; the calls we make to rectify situations that prevent potential errors.

Medications are complex, as are the people who take them. The medications patients are taking together could interact or counteract each other—we identify these issues and start discussions with prescribers.

We educate people about the correct way to use their inhalers; how to correctly use injectable medications; how to correctly apply a topical dose form. We provide supervision for methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone dosing.

All of these roles that we perform are more and more undervalued or misunderstood. It makes me wonder if people know what we do and it makes me reflect on the respect for our knowledge and skills.

We are often described as the most accessible healthcare professional, but we are more than that. We are also the healthcare professionals constantly resolving problems with prescriptions; we are the health professional who tracks down scripts missing for Dose Administration Aids; we are the blood glucose machine replacers; we are the health professional who listens to complaints about medical conditions and medications that are not working.

Could our skills not be better used? Could they be so easily replaced? Are we respected healthcare professionals as well as the most accessible healthcare professionals and do interactions with certain other healthcare professionals have to be contentious?

After all, are we all not here to help patients and keep them safe? Is it not about looking at the most effective way that we can all work together in a respectful way to deliver health and have our profession be respected and not have our role described as being replaceable by robotic dispensers?

Rather than looking at ways to further increase demands placed on doctors and hospitals where not necessary, my suggestion is to look at ways to increase patient access to treatments for conditions that can be delivered by pharmacists. Utilisation of pharmacists’ expertise in this model is already in place in several international settings.

This model includes supplying short-course trimethoprim for diagnosed UTI, OCC for repeat medications to prevent emergency requests, and PDE5 Inhibitors for previously-diagnosed individuals. Why not look at more ways to utilise skill sets and provide patients with safer, easier access to safe supply of medications under certain criteria and better utilise everyone’s skill set?

Isn’t it time for respect and working together as healthcare professionals to provide safe supply of medication? It is time to be recognised. It is time for us to be acknowledged.

It is time to be seen for all we do. It starts with us being united and accepting and respecting all opportunities that come forward and that we can create as pharmacists to help our patients.

Isn’t it time? 

Carlene McMaugh has worked in the healthcare field for over 20 years in varied roles and as a pharmacist for ten years including three years working as a pharmacist in the UK. She currently works in Capital Chemist Coburg and in the pharmaceutical industry.