What you said: Pharmacist recognition, workloads

Rounding up reader comments on our top stories from the past week

Last week we heard from the Pharmacy Council of NSW about the pressures some pharmacists are under with “extreme workloads”, such as high script numbers (up to 400-500 per day) with only a single pharmacist on duty.

There is a continued rising trend in the number of complaints and notifications being made against pharmacists, said Stuart Ludington, president of the Pharmacy Council of NSW.

“The serious nature of many of these complaints has resulted in an alarming number of pharmacists either being suspended from practice, or having their ability to practise limited by conditions that have been imposed to protect the health and safety of the public,” he said.

Extreme workloads are often a contributing factor to pharmacist errors occurring and complaints being made, the council warned.

The PSA said it has also received anecdotal evidence about increasingly high workloads.

“We take the impact of high workloads on the professional practice of pharmacists very seriously,” the organisation told AJP.

“We know that high workloads place pressure on some pharmacists and this can contribute to sub-optimal outcomes, including error.

“This is an issue that affects the whole profession and is making it hard for pharmacists to provide the best possible care,” said the PSA.

Here are some comments from readers:

“Fine and discipline the pharmacist practicing but not the owner? Things won’t change until the owners are held responsible and are suspended and have to sell their pharmacy/pharmacies. Easy to say if you find yourself in these situations, where do these pharmacist turn to for real action?” – Philip Smith

“Pharmacists have commodified the dispensing process and devalued their labour by this crazy race to provide speedy dispensing, which frankly is in no one’s interest. The introduction of maximum workloads per pharmacist is long overdue and please don’t tell me it is impractical when we have such a glut of pharmacists.” – Apotheke

“Most pharmacists in Australia are always so busy, there is hardly any time for robust counselling on drug use, possible ADR and interaction … Most look unhappy and lethargic.” – bakassi

“It doesn’t need to be like this as some readers know well. The solution is fundamental practice change that many have embraced and would never go back to the dispensing chemist approach. Delegate the administrative dispensary work that others can do as well or better in some cases and work with the patients.” – Bruce Annabel

“To prevent further lip-service there should be a set of measurable and enforceable standards with random inspections and severe penalties for employers … I say this as an owner/employer.” – Peter Crothers

“The situation needs to be addressed initially by a conversation with the employer to see if they are willing to employ extra staff. If not it is usually best to walk away from a job like that. There are other pharmacy job opportunities out there. It is a matter for each individual to decide however if employees decided not to work in these roles without extra staff the employer would need to take action to address the situation.” – Notachemist

“Make the owners responsible for the errors made by employee pharmacists who make errors due to extreme workloads too – equal punishment for the owners might help them to wake up…” – Gavin Mingay

UK research also showed some pharmacists don’t feel recognised as registered healthcare professionals, with some similarities here in Australia.

Community and hospital pharmacists want to be recognised as medicines experts but are aware that they are mainly seen by the public as dispensers and “shopkeepers”, according to a study by researchers from Brighton General Hospital and the University of Brighton in the UK.

Here’s what you said:

“That’s because we don’t talk to our customers about what value we can provide…. we don’t run campaigns like the ‘GP- Your specialist in Life’ … we don’t come up on TV to talk about latest drugs or treatments …. but we do hanker on about cheapest toilet paper and handwash in ads, catalogues and our shop fronts….  Time we ran an ad campaign about what our profession has to offer the public . This could help help stop other health professionals defining what we can and can’t do!!” – fiquet

“The raison d’etre of the peak body that negotiates the bulk of pharmacy funding is to ‘serve the interests of its members’, who are entirely made up of retailers. Often at the expense of health outcomes and efficiency.” – Andrew

“If the UK is anything like Australia then the pharmacists themselves are responsible for the way the public perceive them. Over the last 20 years I have observed fellow pharmacists in Australia cheapen our profession to the point where no wonder we are considered nothing more than a supermarket check out operator … If you want respect then earn it.” – Michael Serafin

“There are some further measures that I believe we should start to think about and take seriously. a). Stop calling those that use our services ‘Customers’ and start referring to them as ‘Patients’. b). Stop funding the inefficient PBS which sees approved Pharmacists holding way too much investment in stock and risking shrinkage through expiration and other losses. I have believed for a long time that the Dispensary stock should be owned and supplied by Medicare.” – Tony Brangan

“Most people nowadays just want to get ‘cheap’. It’s pharmacists own fault that the perception of the profession has been devalued. How many other professionals (or even tradespeople) would:

  1. Discount price
  2. Offer quicker time as a feature
  3. Take on an amount of work in one day, that is twice as much as safety dictates
  4. Work 9-15 hours without a complete rest or meal break
  5. Work for a salary that, in some cases, is only $3 an hour more than a “checkout chick”
  6. In general, give advice and perform tests free of charge
  7. Deliver and sometimes pick up products free of charge??

“Over my lifetime I have seen more and more things like the above happen in the pharmacy industry and usually offfered as a feature to outdo the opposition pharmacy. We are now at a point where customers demand all of the above or they’ll go somewhere else. So why would they think of us as a professional when we don’t even treat ourselves as a professional?” – Geoffrey Colledge

“Pharmacists are not the only people whose practice has been moulded by a demand for ‘cheapest cheapest cheapest’ … Dental is coming in to this arena, as are opticians, medical bulk billing, ‘free’ pathology….. Yes pharmacy is being affected by this demand from society, but do not kid yourself into thinking that pharmacists are alone – or even hard done by – with this. It’s a fact of life, even if we don’t like it and even if pushing back makes little impact.” – Jarrod McMaugh

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