APLF Communique’ – Path for a sustainable future defined at Pharmacist Workforce Summit

The pharmacy profession’s first ever Australian Pharmacist Workforce Summit, ‘uniting our profession for a sustainable future’ was held on Friday 26th June 2015 at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University.
The Australian Pharmacist Liaison Forum (APLF) and Monash University’s Project Pharmacist jointly hosted the event attended by delegates from each of the major pharmacist and pharmacy organisations, Project Pharmacist, workforce experts and demographers.

Speakers included Dr Adrian Webster (AIHW), Professor Anthony Scott (Melbourne Institute, the University of Melbourne), Christopher Robertson (AHPRA), Maureen McCarty and Steve Dunlop (DoH), John Jackson (Project Pharmacist) and Bill Kelly (Pharmacy Board of Australia).

The capability and capacity of the workforce underpins the professions’ future. A competent and sustainable pharmacist workforce is necessary to address the increasing pharmaceutical requirements of the population and to enable continued expansion of pharmacists’ scope of practice.
The significant shortage of pharmacists which existed in the period 1995 – 2005 has largely 
been resolved by an increase in the number of graduates entering the profession over the last decade.
Is the number and distribution appropriate and what needs to be put in place for pharmacists’ skills to be better utilised?

The purpose of the Summit was to consider the pharmacist workforce in all areas of practice with the aim of reaching consensus as to the major issues affecting pharmacists having sustainable and rewarding professional roles which contribute to the health of the Australian population.
The Summit also aimed to determine the data that needs to be gathered and maintained to enable pharmacist workforce issues to be monitored and addressed for the future.

Based on the results of a survey conducted of the major pharmacist and pharmacy organisations in preparation for the event, the Summit resolved that the major issues relating to enhanced utilisation of the pharmacist workforce are:

• Making use of the potential opportunities created for pharmacists by demographic driven demand, emerging professional roles and development of new services.

• Addressing restraints and barriers to demand for pharmacists in health care. The restraints include uncertainty regarding the future, levels of remuneration, limited career development prospects and a lack of acknowledgement of expertise as part of the healthcare team.

• Resolving workplace limitations to better utilise pharmacists’ expertise.

• Sustaining the quality of the graduates with a balanced and sustainable supply of pharmacists training for future evolving roles.

• Internship and factors relating to the availability of adequate numbers of appropriate sites with suitably trained preceptors able to provide necessary supervision, mentoring and guidance.

The Summit identified the main elements of a pharmacist workforce data set and potential sources and actions to acquire and sustain the data set.
In addition to data on student numbers, university entry scores and success rates, the data set should include results of graduate destination surveys which track early career employment pathways.
On the demand side the data set should track the number and distribution of vacancies, emerging therapies and technologies as future professional opportunities for Pharmacists.
An evolving rather than snapshot gap analysis is required to link the supply and demand sides of the workforce issue.
Quality and outcome markers should be measured and a longitudinal tracking of attitudes, perceptions, confidence and aspirations of pharmacists should be undertaken and documented.

It became apparent that much of the relevant data is already available from AIHW, AHPRA and the Department of Health.
The next step is for the profession to work together, along with government agencies to ensure that such data are available, collated and analysed in a timely manner, in addition to establishing a process to collectively plan to address workforce issues as they arise in the future.

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