The APLF – a very quiet organisation

The Australian Pharmacy Liaison Forum (APLF) is a pharmacy umbrella organisation that was born in 2008 amidst political tension between major pharmacy organisations.
The fact that it was not needed until that point is testament to the goodwill and collegiality that existed between pharmacists and the various organisations that represented them.
Something happened to alter that perception and it had to do with the PGA president of the day who was described by the Crikey online publication as:

“The hot-headed pharmacist from Brisbane who leads the nation’s most feared and effective lobby group: the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. His supporters laud him as a “colossus”; his critics accuse him of stifling competition, depriving patients of discounted medicines and putting pharmacists’ profits ahead of the community’s health.”

While he was the ideal choice to lead pharmacy into battle with the federal government, he used the same tactics against other pharmacy organisations in a destructive internal political battle that destroyed trust and unity. That legacy has persisted, but is fortunately diminishing.
It was probably the most destructive period for the family of pharmacy ever experienced.

So the initial momentum of APLF was a faltering one, often attracting negative criticism, mostly unwarranted.

In June 2011 an alternative group formed up titled The Pharmacist Coalition for Health Reform (PCHR) which comprised:

1. The Pharmacists’ Division of the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists & Managers, Australia (APESMA) – now retitled PPA, Professional Pharmacists Australia

2. National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association (NAPSA)

3. Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA)

4. The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA)

While there was an open invitation for the PGA to join this group they refused, preferring to back the APLF.
During its time of operation there was some suggestion that NAPSA was being bullied to withdraw their membership or risk interruption to their funding (controlled by PGA).
Quite unsettling for all of pharmacy.
However, in 2012 the PCHR decided to fold up, mainly due to the costs of maintaining the organisation.
APESMA/PPA felt their resources for fighting their issues would be better invested through their own organisation.

After this event conciliation seemed to be more prevalent and Grant Kadarchi (PSA National president) was nominated for the job of chairman of the APLF in 2012 and that was seen as a move towards solidarity.
Certainly Grant Kadarchi was energetic in his new role and APLF seemed to be finally on track.
All the events leading up to this time, plus associated issues, were commented on by i2P on a regular basis.
In particular, the need for pharmacy leadership to establish a direction for pharmacy vision, values and culture.
I2P often asked the question as to which pharmacy organisation was responsible for this important function, because without a “heart” pharmacists would continue to lack unity, when most wanted the exact opposite.
The last i2P article to discuss the context of vision, values and culture was at this link:
The US Joint Commissioners of Pharmacy Practice (JCPP) noted in this article seems to be very similar to the APLF.
Our research was incomplete at the point of writing this article because we were unaware that a pharmacy vision statement was published in June 2014 and can be read at APLF-vision-for-the-profession.
This statement marks the first activity towards rectifying a leadership vacuum that has existed for nearly 20 years within Australian pharmacy.
Finally a turning point.

Respectfully, i2P would like to make some suggestions to include on the agenda for the next APLF event.
APLF was born in troubled times and has learnt to keep a low profile.
However, it is so low that it is almost invisible.
While the Australian Pharmacy Council mentions APLF on their website and provides a secretariat, it is probably time to raise the profile through the design and maintenance of a separate APLF website.
This will assist in curating and publishing the body of work being created and will assist in the sharing of this information.

I2P had no idea that a vision statement had been created until it turned up in a recent Internet search. The information may have been circulated in pharmacy media, but it was not obvious.
In fact, we received our first official APLF media release approximately 10 days prior to writing this article!
We have made provision to receive media releases on a regular basis.

Another suggestion concerns the ability to receive input from individual pharmacists.
Whilst quite rightly APLF deals only with major pharmacist/pharmacy organisations there needs to be some associate group, or “friends” group, to allow individual pharmacists to feel they have some ownership through input, formal or informal, into the building of pharmacy vision, values and culture.

A further, more contentious issue would be to correct the organisation set up to manage consultant/clinical service pharmacists.
The only stakeholders in that governing body are the PGA and the PSA.
Consultant or clinical service pharmacists do not have a vote in their own organisation.
This is one of the legacy issues that still creates internal divisions with a group of pharmacists that ought to be in a position to lead the world in pharmacy clinical excellence, but are hindered because of political restraints that exist in the Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacy (AACP).
This organisation cries out for sensible reform and individual pharmacists who are paying members of this organisation need to be nurtured so that they can have a real voice.
If APLF is able to broker this situation then it will have contributed to a major component of professional unity.

And the final suggestion, also contentious, concerns grants that flow into pharmacy.
Up to this point the federal government has insisted that all of their grants be managed by one organisation which is PGA.
APLF, representing all of pharmacy, is a more suitable manager and the 10 percent management fee could provide a modest income to help in development and scope of its activities.
With an investigation into the 5CPA and associated activities being organised by the National Parliament, the management of grants may well be one of the items targeted.
This would mean that APLF could not only gain sufficient income to manage its entire organisation, but by extending its management to the award and supervision of grants, it could well stimulate projects that create growth across the profession.
This could revitalise and invigorate the entire profession.

I recently received the APLF media release below relating to a workforce summit with the tagline “Uniting our profession for a sustainable future…”
That caught my eye because unity and healing within the profession of pharmacy is an exercise that should be front and centre for all pharmacists, no matter where they work or what station they occupy at this point in time.

10 June 2015 Media Release Australian Pharmacist Workforce Summit 2015 …..Uniting our profession for a sustainable future….

Australian Pharmacist Liaison Forum (APLF) together with Monash University’s Project Pharmacist are hosting the profession’s first ever Australian Pharmacist Workforce Summit 2015. The Summit’s theme is ‘Uniting our profession for a sustainable future’.
“The primary focus of the Summit is to address issues relating to enhancing utilisation of the Australian pharmacist workforce”, said Professor Iqbal Ramzan, Chair of the APLF.
“We would like to achieve a set of consensus outcomes from this day that can pave a path for a united way forward to addressing workforce issues for our profession.”

A survey was distributed to all of the pharmacy organisations to seek their input to the development of the Summit program. John Jackson, Director Project Pharmacist said.

“We are grateful for the input from all the major pharmacist/pharmacy organisations we have had so far. Their survey responses will form a focal point of this Summit which will also feature Dr Adrian Webster, Head, Expenditure and Workforce Unit, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Professor Anthony Scott who leads the Centre of Research Excellence in Medical Workforce Dynamics (”.

The Summit will be held on Friday 26 June 2015 at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne. Representatives from each of the major pharmacist/pharmacy organisations, workforce experts and demographers have been invited to attend the one day event.

The initiative has the support of the Pharmacy Board of Australia.

Perhaps the plight of consultant and clinical service pharmacists might be discussed at this summit.
I hope it is.
I2P is delighted with the progress made by APLF to this point because the work it is doing underpins the future of pharmacy stability and survival.
While the nature of the organisation means that its work may seem frustratingly slow at times, it is nonetheless necessary to have an accumulating body of work that continues to underpin the entire vision, values and culture ongoing.
That gives us all direction on the same page.

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