Pharmacy reforms needed to benefit consumers

The Consumers Health Forum has called for major reforms to the regulation and funding of pharmacies to foster a better deal for consumers, optimise the use of pharmacists’ skills and the place of the pharmacy workforce and community pharmacy in the health system.

In its submission to the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation, CHF has recommended alternative arrangements to current bi-lateral pharmacy agreement process between the Government and the Pharmacy Guild representing owners, and for the de-regulation of location and ownership rules governing the whereabouts of pharmacies and who can own them.

“Community pharmacy is an integral part of the health system and is valued by consumers, particularly those with complex and chronic needs and families with children,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“Our recommendations are designed to advance National Medicines Policy but also to ensure that community pharmacy is better integrated with the health system, and is more in-step with current health reform directions.    

“The rules governing pharmacies, which will receive $18.9 billion over five years under the current pharmacy agreement, need to change to reflect changes in community expectations and potential health reforms which will change pharmacists’ working relationships with other health professionals.

“Several reports to Government have found that there is a serious case for government support of community pharmacies to be more transparent and contestable and for the location rules to be removed to allow for competition, innovation and new pharmacies.

"The requirement for a pharmacy to be owned by a pharmacist is an anachronism. Already many pharmacy owners with multiple stores have to use staff pharmacists. Consumers have identified convenience and out-of-hours access as reasons for allowing pharmacies to operate in different settings, provided there is a qualified pharmacist on duty to provide essential professional advice.

“Instead of the current Community Pharmacy Agreement which is negotiated bilaterally, CHF recommends that the agreement be abolished and replaced by separate negotiations and agreements on areas such as the dispensing fee, and the funding and performance of professional services by pharmacists.

“Community pharmacy is a vital community service involving an investment in billions of dollars. It is a matter of good governance and public policy that alternative governance arrangements should involve multilateral negotiations and the involvement of key stakeholders such as consumers”.

“CHF believes these funds should be used across community pharmacy more broadly, not just in the narrowly defined retail pharmacy setting. Consumers have told a CHF survey that they want to see pharmacists working more closely with their GP as part of integrated primary care services being proposed. Measures to support this under future pharmacy agreement arrangements would be firmly in keeping with and help consolidate the Health Care Home model of care: a flagship area of primary care policy.

“Consumers should have a greater say in how this important community-funded resource could best serve patients: there are benefits when they do. The Health Minister Sussan Ley, has just announced the big reductions in prescribed medicine prices – a development which followed the advocacy of such groups as the Consumers Health Forum. 

“Consumers play a vital role in pressing for improvements. Other changes we argue for in our submission include:

  • Extending hospital pharmacy services to ensure dispensing after hours to all community members where appropriate
  • That pharmacies display a list of services they provide and fees charged
  • Continuing the $1 discount on co-payments
  • That the PBS safety net should be monitored and administered centrally through Medicare
  • The adoption of a protocol on advising customers of interactions between complementary and prescription medicines.

Our full submission can be read here: https://chf.org.au/sites/default/files/chf_submission_to_review_of_pharmacy_remuneration_and_regulation.pdf

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Media contact

Mark Metherell

Em.metherell@chf.org.au
T:  02 6273 5444 
M: 0429 111 986