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Profession overwhelmingly votes in favor of having a new Chief Pharmacist position

Australian pharmacists have overwhelmingly backed a call for the Federal government to appoint a new Chief Pharmacist.

Most respondents to an AJP poll said such a move would benefit both the pharmacy profession and public health.

In response to the question: ‘Do we need to have a Chief Pharmacist in the Department of Health?’, 60% of the 847 respondents said “Yes, it will benefit pharmacy AND public health.”

Another 21% agreed with either of these two propositions (10% for ‘Yes, it will benefit pharmacy in policy discussions’, 11% for ‘Yes, it will improve Quality Use of Medicines and other health initiatives’)

Only 3% voted for ‘No, it won’t benefit pharmacy or public health’, however another 9% said it was a waste of money. The remaining 6% were not sure of whether it was beneficial or not.

The debate over the lack of such a position was brought to the fore by PSA in its 2019/20 Budget Submission, released at the beginning of February.

PSA said it “calls for the establishment of… a Commonwealth Chief Pharmacist. This position is long overdue to provide the leadership required in delivering a strategic government policy agenda on the Quality Use of Medicines”. 

It saw the position as operating similar to the existing Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer roles. They saw it as being an essential appointment to ensure the success of Quality Use of Medicines initiatives. 

Speaking to AJP at APP2019 recently, Chris Freeman, PSA national president, said it’s an issue that’s been “bubbling below the surface for quite some time.”

“We’ve had a quasi-Chief Pharmacist role with Lloyd Sansom acting as an unofficial adviser to the Department and the Government, but the concern is that this is not a formalised role, and if Lloyd does eventually retire, there may be no one ready to step immediately into the role. It’s a huge risk as we see it,” Dr Freeman said.

“So if we did have a formalised Chief Pharmacist role, they could advocate within the system to promote things like medication safety and work with the profession broadly, but also within the framework of government to see these legislative changes happen and see the necessary pieces of advocacy occur.” 

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said: “Any measure that elevated consideration of the important role of community pharmacy in our health system would be positive”.


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