Pharmacy responds to Commission report

man holding 'no' sign

Automated dispensing replacing pharmacists is a “simplistic approach that shows lack of understanding,” say pharmacy organisations

While pharmacy organisations have welcomed recommendations by the Productivity Commission that support pharmacists’ role in collaborative care, they have rejected calls to shift community pharmacy to an automatic dispensing model.

The Commission report, tabled in Parliament and released to the Federal Government this week, called for a community pharmacy model of automatic dispensing supervised by people with qualifications involving “substantially less training” than is currently required for pharmacists.

The PSA says the recommendations are a “major concern”.

“PSA agrees that change offers the potential for serious gains in the healthcare system, but we see the method of achieving this change differently to that of the Productivity Commission,” says PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson.

“Community pharmacy is a vital network of healthcare that should be invested in rather than be diminished,” says Dr Jackson.

“Reforms to boost productivity should link activities by pharmacists to health outcomes.

“The professional consideration and interaction of a pharmacist – the most accessible health professionals in Australia – around medicines, medication management and the patient are fundamental components of the dispensing process.

“Removal of these aspects will likely compromise patient safety and affect health outcomes.”

The SHPA has also rejected the Commission’s recommendations for the community pharmacy model.

“SHPA does not support the recommendation to move away from community pharmacy as a central mechanism for dispensing medicines to Australian patients,” it says in a statement.

However it does support recommendations to increase and expand the role of Australian pharmacists.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels argues the adoption of automated machine dispensing supervised by less trained and qualified individuals in the retail pharmacy sector would be a “simplistic approach” that shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of patients’ medicine needs.

“Patients need support when receiving medication, and this recommendation devalues the unique expertise pharmacists provide in protecting the community by ensuring optimal quality use of medicines.

“There are three key components – clinical review, dispensing, and patient counselling and education – and weakening these pillars will lead to patient hardship and significant subsequent costs.”

The PSA and SHPA join the Pharmacy Guild in voicing opposition to the recommendations around automated dispensing.

The Pharmacy Guild roundly rejected them as “ill-informed” and warned they would lead to “the dumbing down of a revered health profession”.

“In an astounding piece of short-sightedness, the Commission actually recommends a reduction in the qualifications and training required to become a pharmacist, creating a sub-class of under-qualified people to ‘supervise’ automated dispensing,” said the Guild in a statement.

“This displays an appalling misunderstanding of the complexities and responsibilities required in the safe dispensing of prescription medicines.

“This irrational recommendation to deprive Australians of this direct personal care from highly trained medicine specialists should be roundly rejected by governments and by the community.

“The complete lack of meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders – let alone the Australian consumers who make 350 million visits a year to local pharmacies – before making such radical and unworkable recommendations is breathtaking.”

Read the Productivity Commission’s report here

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