A tailored approach needed for rural pharmacy

Wednesday 21 August 2019


In response to the National Rural Health Commissioner’s Discussion Paper for Consultation: Rural Allied Health Quality, Access and Distribution, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has called for a number of actions to address the unique needs of the rural pharmacy workforce.


PSA National President Dr Chris Freeman said that rural pharmacy needed to be considered as a distinct entity and its specific challenges and required support structures were not adequately addressed within the discussion paper. There is a unique opportunity to support innovative practice within rural Australia through community pharmacy, and flexible integrated services should be developed as a matter of priority.


“Rural pharmacists are faced with unique challenges and PSA is calling for a tailored solution to ensure they are able to practise to their full scope and best manage the healthcare needs of their communities,” he said.


As a matter of urgency, PSA has asked the Commissioner to develop a discussion paper on ‘Rural Pharmacy Quality, Access and Distribution’. The current discussion paper is not fit for purpose for rural pharmacy and for the pharmacists that work in rural Australia. Unless we prioritise the supports that are available to our rural practitioners, we will potentially lose our rural community pharmacies, our rural pharmacists and a level of service delivery that will only further increase the gap between the outcomes for rural patients and their urban counterparts.


As the most accessible healthcare provider, pharmacists are well-placed to perform a much greater role in Australia’s rural and remote communities, however they urgently need more support. PSA members in rural and remote Australia report that workforce maldistribution, higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage and lack of rural medical practitioners put further pressure on an already strained community pharmacy workforce.


“PSA holds great fears about the sustainability of, and therefore access to, pharmacy services within rural communities and now is the time for action,” Dr Freeman said.


“Community pharmacies in rural and remote Australia are unique because they represent a private investment in health infrastructure that is generally not present through other allied health practitioners.”


PSA made a number of other recommendations to the Commissioner, including:

  • identifying rural pharmacy workforce distribution, needs and opportunities
  • reviewing rural health workforce support programs and initiatives to ensure equity of access to appropriate support for pharmacists, similar to the medical and nursing professions
  • fully utilising the infrastructure of community pharmacy through the delivery of a rural pharmacy strategic framework
  • investing in trials to implement innovative rural-based models of care by allowing greater flexibility in funding and delivery of pharmacist care tailored to rural and remote communities’ needs.


PSA is urgently seeking to address these issues with the National Rural Health Commissioner and the Minister responsible for rural health to progress these actions for the benefit of rural and remote pharmacists and the communities they serve.


PSA’s full submission is available on our website.


Media contact:      Carly Lusk, Public Affairs Officer – 0487 922 176