It’s 2020, election year and we are about to go into a worldwide recession and in the midst of a pandemic. Pharmacies are busy filling scripts and selling hand sanitizer to people in lockdown, staying open to the end. The Independent Pharmacists Association of New Zealand represents pharmacists who are employees and locums eg; with no pecuniary interest in pharmacy other than our payslips.
With the world in a pandemic, and with our health system already under immense strain everyone needs to be working at the top of their scope of practice for us to keep providing world class health care. Doctors, Nurses, Caregivers, and Allied Health including Pharmacists all need to be working at the top of our Scope. We need to keep people out of our hospitals, there just isn’t enough space for anyone more. Once we have cut down our hospital bills (which are often paying to house people who we could have prevented ending up in there in the first place) we might then finally have the funds to work on preventative actions, but our DHBs need massive overhauls to get their books looking right before we can start. A $500 million boost is a drop in the ocean across all of our heavily indebted DHBs.
Of all the health professionals with capacity to step up, Pharmacists may just be the most under-utilised and under appreciated. It almost wasn’t surprising that we (and other pharmacy staff) weren’t included in Jacinda Arderns speech on Friday thanking the essential workers even though we have been expected to keep working through to stage four-even while GPs shut down for face to face appointments. A pharmacist does a minimum of five years study then extra on going trainingwhile working (like doctors, nurses and most other health professionals) to stay accredited and provide some of the services already funded; eg Community Pharmacy Anti coagulation monitoring, vaccinating, Medicines Use Reviews and Medicines Therapy assessments. But these services are sporadically funded across the country and are still at the lower end of our scope. Pharmacist prescribers are pharmacists with an extra approximately three years training and are trained to manage the medications for those who have a diagnosis. These practitioners are not allowed to have a pecuniary interest in a pharmacy (like Doctors) so have no incentive to over prescribe which seems to be the most common complaint we hear about funding and enabling pharmacist prescribers. To the contrary, prescribing pharmacists are more likely to de prescribe for their patients due to the emerging evidence of the dangers of poly pharmacy. In Scotland, community pharmacies have just been given £2000 in funding per month for pharmacists to run funded minor ailment clinics and implement pharmacist prescribing. Some of this is stuff we already do: we spend much of our days triaging patients and treating minor ailments, just at the moment it has to be funded by the customer buying products which is hardly equitable. We have everything in place and ready to go, the government has even produced a pharmacy 2020 action plan-outlining all the steps we need to make the most of our young enthusiastic workforce, we just need the MOH, the DHBs and the government to make the policy adjustments and funding available for it to happen.
We are in a pandemic. When the government announced its crisis ‘stages’ it said that even in stage four, pharmacies will remain open. We heard this first from the media too. GPs need to be taking more load off the hospitals and the government needs to fund them to do that. In order for GPs to rapidly expand and take on larger loads, Pharmacists need to step up too, but the government needs to pay us for that too. Pharmacy funding has been declining for years and as a result some pharmacists have to work under intense pressure to keep up the service that’s expected of us so that the pharmacies we work for don’t decrease their profits. Many of us work 9.5hr days with only a ten minute lunch break. We want to work at the top of our scope but we can’t do anymore work for free or declining funds, we are already at our limit.
So we are calling on the government -how much of this $500 million is coming to pharmacy and what are you going to do to keep us (and the supermarket employees) safe since you have told everyone we are going to keep our doors open and ourselves at risk? We want to do our part, but we don’t have anything left to give, you’re going to have to pay us for it.
The IPANZ executive