Pharmacy assistants could be registered, free up pharmacist time for more services, and be paid more in the not-too-distant future, says Kos Sclavos
Mr Sclavos, vice president of the Pharmacy Guild’s Queensland branch and former national president, presented an Industry Update at the Pharmacy Assistant Conference on the Gold Coast.
He outlined some of the findings of the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into the sector, which found grounds not only for pharmacists to work to the full scope of their practice, but also to expand that of pharmacy assistants, in relation to the handling of dangerous drugs.
Mr Sclavos said that he was proud that the Queensland branch of the Guild had raised, at the government level, the issue of scope of practice for pharmacy assistants for the first time.
“They were astounded that we can have a situation where, for example, at a wholesaler level where a driver, they look after things like controlled drugs and do administration of pharmacy – yet we have you guys as pharmacy assistants, technically you’re not even supposed to touch controlled drugs, or the S8s, as they come into a pharmacy,” he told delegates.
“So this bizarre world we live in where you are still deemed to be consumers, and therefore the pharmaceutical reps can’t speak to you… I can tell you honestly that we’ve made a massive inroads.”
One committee member, with a background as a paramedic, thought that pharmacy assistants should be registered, Mr Sclavos said.
“This will have big issues for us. There will be minimum training perhaps, for those staff that work in the dispensary and at least handle prescriptions, or deal with things like the My Health Record.
“At the moment, technically, you guys can’t be involved and change data and entry, yet from the programs that I do as professional programs, pharmacy assistants are critical for the administrative role you can play in supporting the pharmacist.
“There’ll definitely be an issue where there’ll be minimum standards that will cost money, but most importantly whenever you have a structure [that] acknowledges your role, there will be differential pay and obviously because generally, traditionally that means you don’t ever go down in pay, there’ll be an opportunity for you guys to upskill yourselves and therefore be rewarded with direct increase in remuneration.”
Mr Sclavos’ words echoed the remarks of Stephanie Lynch, 2017 Pharmacy Assistant of the Year, who opened the conference and said that pharmacy assistants often tended to be “overlooked” but that “change is in the air”.
However, she said that this needs to begin with pharmacy assistants themselves, and encouraged her colleagues to upskill as much as possible.
A State of the Industry Question and Answer session also saw Mr Sclavos, Queensland Guild president Trent Twomey and CP2025 senior advisor Marsha Gomez look into pharmacy’s immediate future.
Mr Twomey also said that pharmacy assistants were not recognised as members of the primary health care workforce “and you should be,” particularly as practice changes and assistants take on more of the existing pharmacist role.
“You look at the nursing profession, you’ve got the registered nurses, they go and do university… just like pharmacists, but then you’ve got the enrolled nurse profession, which do a diploma, a TAFE course, much like you do,” Mr Twomey said.
“It’s the same thing in the dental space with dental technicians, and it’s the same thing if you have a look at paramedics, it’s a TAFE course as well, and so’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers.
“My vision is by the end of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, pharmacy assistants will be acknowledged as a formal part of the primary health care workforce.”
Mr Twomey also said that the Guild was hopeful that the Queensland Health Minister, Steven Miles, might make an announcement at next week’s Guild state Parliamentary Dinner, similar to that made in NSW this week: expanding the range of vaccines which can be offered by accredited pharmacists.