Cost-effectiveness Review into Ongoing Pharmacy Workforce Programs

Cost-effectiveness Review into Ongoing Pharmacy Workforce Programs, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia under the Third, Fourth and Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreements (CPAs), implemented initiatives that sought to address the unequal distribution of the pharmacy workforce between metropolitan centres and rural and remote communities. These comprise 12 individual programs across the Rural Pharmacy Workforce Programme and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Programme.

The Department of Health and Aged Care engaged HMA to provide a cost-effectiveness review into these programs and their respective impact on the rural and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy workforce. The review was undertaken from August 2016 to September 2017.

HMA found that the Pharmacy Workforce Package was ineffective at a macro level in reducing the underlying need for a strengthened workforce in rural and remote areas, evidenced by the static (inner and outer regional areas) and reduced (remote and very remote regional areas) pharmacist FTE rates per 100,000 people between 2013 and 2015.

However, the programs were more effective at a micro level – the impact on individual students and community pharmacists. There were approximately 270 new recipients of direct support annually via the recruitment support programs and 500 recipients annually of direct support via workforce retention grants. The evaluation survey responses and consultation feedback suggested that an overwhelming majority of these recipients valued the grant monies received and acknowledged that it informed their decisions about career planning. Based on these observations, HMA suggested that wholesale changes to the Pharmacy Workforce Programs should be approached with caution.

HMA described four potential options for future development of the Pharmacy Workforce Package:

  • Option 1: keep existing programs with minor modifications to improve their functionality
  • Option 2: remove Pharmacy Accessibility Remoteness Index (PhARIA) 1 restrictions to existing programs to improve the Pharmacy Workforce Program’s reach in regional areas
  • Option 3: undertake a moderate restructure to include additional workforce program types, whilst retaining some or all of the existing programs, or
  • Option 4: undertake a major restructure to cease all existing programs and use funds to enhance the level of workforce support pharmacists in targeted geographic areas (possibly prioritised on the basis of rurality).


Download the report here.

Tags: Pharmacy, Workforce, Economic Evaluation