A time for boldness

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It’s time to be bold and go beyond embracing the 6CPA, says Professor Charlie Benrimoj

The 2017 UTS Community Pharmacy Barometer showed pharmacists are more confident about the future than they have been for some time.

The Barometer index of 96.4 out of 200 reported last November is a “neutral” reading, suggesting pharmacists still have some way to go before they feel genuinely positive about the future.

The result, however, is the highest level reported in the seven years of the Barometer, and is a vast improvement on the third-wave Barometer index (October 2013) when it bottomed at 61.2, and the 85.9 recorded in October 2016.

It seems possible that we might go past an index of 100 for the first time this year.

We believe there are many reasons why pharmacists feel cautiously optimistic. One of the most significant factors is the impact of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA), which has stabilised the industry.

Essentially the setting of a floor price for pharmacy remuneration for dispensing, a combination of the dispensing fee and AHI with adjustments to CPI being one of the major income streams for community pharmacies, has been welcomed.

Recent government announcements that support the industry, such as location rules, have also given pharmacy owners more hope that the business environment can remain stable. Additionally, the full effects of the Expanded and Accelerated Price Disclosure policies and the challenge of the discount model are now known.

The PBS report, “Expenditure and Prescriptions Twelve Months to 30th June 2017”, shows that community pharmacy is accessing the fully allocated expenditure in the CPA Professional Pharmacy Program for 2016-17. This reflects the increased delivery of services and provides evidence of the evolution to a patient focused/service model.

Overall, 65% of pharmacies said they were already offering professional services. There is no doubt that rolling out high-quality professional services has the potential to improve the professional nature and profitability of community pharmacies and establish a more precise role for pharmacists within the healthcare landscape.

More than half (56%) of pharmacists who responded to our survey identified professional services as the most significant opportunity for community pharmacy over the next three years. As well as those services already provided (such as MedsCheck, HMR and RMMR), they saw the value of expanding their range of government-funded health initiatives.

Many highlighted the opportunity presented by providing services such as vaccinations, monitoring (blood pressure, cholesterol, coagulation and sleep apnoea), wound care, screening services, medication management (especially for asthma), expanded diabetes services and support for patients quitting smoking or managing their weight.

They also saw the potential of specialisation, developing alliances with interdisciplinary healthcare teams, playing a more prominent part in primary healthcare and taking on more of a clinical role. Some saw value in health destination pharmacies, minor ailment schemes, wound management and working closely with medication professionals.

However, our survey found pharmacy owners were more satisfied with the 6CPA at an economic and professional level than employed pharmacists, who said they had the highest dissatisfaction with the agreement. This could create a challenge for the profession in the future.

The industry cannot afford to have its pharmacist employees to be in an environment that is not to their satisfaction. Dissatisfied employees will lead to dissatisfied patients and customers, and this will impinge on the bottom line.

Professor Shalom (Charlie) Benrimoj is UTS Graduate School of Health’s Head and Professor of Pharmacy Practice, University of Technology Sydney

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