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

Previous Guild leader recognised
Next Clinical tips: the 'worried unwell'

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


  1. Kate Tog

    I just get the feeling that it’s easy to be offended rather than proactively promote what exactly you do in your job. We don’t really understand other people’s jobs just like they don’t really understand the complexity of ours. It doesn’t hurt to explain and say “thank you for waiting, I was just double checking that this new medication is ok with your current ones” or “how are you going on your meds, you seem to be taking a lot, how are you coping, any side effects that bother you?”. I know we are busy and there is not always the time but there are a few times a day it is possible and you never know how that will raise your profile. Each answered question makes you more needed and your job more valued.

  2. Curious George

    There are no penalty rates you have to worry about, if you have dispensing robots. No toilet breaks, no ‘safe dispensing’ targets, no sick days, no locums needed for holidays. This sounds like an ideal business model! This has the potential to reduce script dispense fees paid by the government as well, as no counselling will be needed from a pharmacist. A product information leaflet could be downloaded to a phone at time of dispensing. Money saved by all!

Leave a reply