The Federal Government needs to create a Commonwealth Chief Pharmacist role and urgently develop a discussion paper to address rural pharmacy quality, access and distribution, according to PSA’s submission to the National Rural Health Commissioner.
Rural and remote pharmacists are facing a ‘dire’ situation, should be considered ‘uniquely’ and not be bundled ‘conveniently’ into allied health for the sake of convenience, according to the submission titled Rural allied health quality, access and distribution: options for Commonwealth Government policy reform and investment.
PSA makes eight recommendations to the Discussion Paper for Consultation: Rural Allied Health Quality, Access and Distribution, to address severe underfunding from the Community Pharmacy Agreement and the need for a tailored solution that would allow pharmacists to practice to their full scope and be integrated with general practice in rural and remote Australia.
Challenges faced by rural pharmacy practitioners and the specific support structures required to develop the rural pharmacy workforce are not adequately addressed in the Nation Rural Health Commissioner’s discussion paper, PSA believes.
‘The support structures for our rural pharmacists across the country need an overhaul. The Rural Health Strategy, which focuses on nurses and doctors, misses a third crucial component of the rural Australian health landscape and that is rural community pharmacists,’ said PSA National President Dr Chris Freeman.
‘Unless we prioritise the support available to our rural practitioners, we will potentially lose our rural community pharmacies, our rural pharmacists and a level of services delivery that will only further increase the gap between the outcomes for rural patients and their urban counterparts.’
Workforce maldistribution, higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage and a lack of rural medical practitioners add more pressure on an already strained community pharmacy workforce, according to the submission.
While the proposed appointment of a National Chief Allied Health Officer/Advisor by the National Rural Health Commissioner was ‘broadly welcomed’, PSA’s recently-proposed Commonwealth Chief Pharmacist role – in its 2019–2020 Federal pre-budget submission – would enable high-level advice on medicine safety, pharmacy practice and cost-effective use of medicines. It would be similar to the role of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer.
‘PSA holds great fears about the sustainability of pharmacy services within rural communities,’ it said.
PSA’s full recommendations to the Commissioner include:
- Develop, as a matter of urgency, a discussion paper for consultation that addresses ‘Rural Pharmacy Quality, Access and Distribution’
- Facilitate the appointment of a Commonwealth Chief Pharmacist to improve the Commonwealth Government’s coordination and responsiveness to medicine issues in Australia’s complex healthcare system
- Undertake comprehensive workforce data analysis and interpretation to identify the rural pharmacy workforce distribution, needs and opportunities
- Undertake a comprehensive review of rural health workforce support programs and initiatives to ensure equity of access to appropriate support for pharmacists, similar to the medical and nursing professions
- Develop mechanisms to support rural and remote pharmacist preceptors so they are not unfairly burdened in their role to educate, train and mentor pharmacy students and interns during their clinical placements
- Fully utilise the infrastructure of community pharmacy in rural and remote Australia through the delivery of a rural pharmacy strategic framework
- Invest in trials to implement innovative rural-based models of care by allowing greater flexibility in funding and delivery of pharmacist care tailored to unique health needs of rural and remote Australians
- Further explore options to enable pharmacists to adopt and embrace digital transformation to improve the delivery of health care to rural and remote Australians in a timely, safe, equitable and collaborative manner.
To view the submission, visit: https://my.psa.org.au/s/article/ruralhealth