Give consumers a say in community pharmacy agreement

The inclusion of the professional pharmacy organisation in negotiations for the community pharmacy agreement is a positive step and serves to highlight the need for consumers to be represented too, the Consumers Health Forum says.

This week the Government has pledged that the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia will join the Pharmacy Guild in the next Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations with the Federal Government and the Opposition has also committed to a more inclusive negotiation process.

“We urge government to include consumers in these discussions which involve the provision of more than $20 billion dollars over five years for the dispensing of prescribed medicines to the community,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“While today’s statements is a welcome move away from the bilateral negotiations between the retail pharmacy sector and government, it is time that consumers also have a seat at the table in deciding how best to serve the interests of patients and community.

“We also note the Pharmaceutical Society’s new report Pharmacists in 2023 which states that pharmacists are custodians of medicine safety, responsible and accountable for safe and effective use of medicines.

“The report advocates more patient-centric care which the Consumers Health Forum strongly supports.  The role of the pharmacists as dispensers, quality use of medicines advisers and deliverers of aspects of primary health care is an important area of reform.

“However, there remains a significant gap in ensuring consumers always receive the information they need about their medication.  Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflets are increasingly unavailable and consumers have told us that often they do not get advice from pharmacists and/or doctors about newly prescribed medicine.

“The preliminary results of a survey by CHF on the CMI issue found that the majority of people said when they were given a new medicine they were not provided a CMI by their doctor (91%) or pharmacist (60%). Additionally, most respondents (91%) reported their pharmacist had not even advised them where they could access the CMI.

“The CHF survey also found that when given CMIs, fewer than half of the respondents thought the CMIs readable or useful which reinforced other work CHF and others have done on this issue.

“The vast majority of respondents (91%) believed that provision of CMIs by either a doctor, a pharmacist or both should be mandatory.

“Such issues could be pursued more effectively if consumer representatives were involved in high-level decision-making and advisory forums with government and this should include the pharmacy agreement discussions.

“Pharmacy and general practice clinical leaders have been calling for modern pharmacy needs to shift from a ‘dispensing’ mentality to one of community care.

“CHF’s research shows that consumers trust pharmacists, value community pharmacy and want pharmacy services to be opened up and integrated with the rest of the health system.

“Consumers have formed specific perceptions and preferences based on their experiences with the sector and these should be heard and considered as part of discussions to shape the future of pharmacy,” Ms Wells said.



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