2015 a tough year, and there’s more to come: Sinclair

Paul Sinclair

With review ‘scope creep’ meaning ownership rules may be captured by the upcoming review, and a Health Minister who appears not to be a great friend of pharmacy, the industry can’t relax in 2016, says Paul Sinclair.

2015 was a “watershed” year with a great deal of uncertainty before the signing of the 6CPA, and many challenges remain for 2016, NSW Guild president Paul Sinclair told an industry event last week.

“The ship was listing badly and the signing of the agreement simply righted the ship, but was not in any way a windfall result for pharmacy,” Sinclair told attendees.

“The Minister appears not to be a great friend of pharmacy… and speaks more like a finance minister rather than a Health Minister. [Therefore] we need to convince the government of our value proposition—and not be viewed simply as a cost centre.

“2016 is going to be a very challenging year with threats such as the Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review which includes pharmacy and wholesaler remuneration. While this will not change 6CPA remuneration, it will inform 7CPA discussions.”

The review will also include the Location Rules, and any changes to the outcome of the review will need the agreement of the Guild and the Government, he later told the AJP.

Of great concern is that the Department is now intimating that pharmacy ownership may also be captured by the review, says Sinclair.

“We see this as ‘scope creep’ and it makes us question the credibility of the department when ownership was explicitly excluded from the review process during the agreement negotiations.

“Pharmacy ownership is state-based legislation and is beyond the agreed scope of the review,” he says.

“We believed we were negotiating in good faith but it now seems as if the department wants to move the goal posts.”

Sinclair says also looming is the spectre of the Harper Competition Review, which recommended deregulation and changes to the Location Rules.

Therefore, Sinclair stresses pharmacy is not on “easy street”, and must convince the government—and itself—of the value of community pharmacy, and how it can deliver quality health outcomes for both its patients and the government.

“It is the most accessible healthcare provider,” he says.

Sinclair says it is imperative that pharmacy changes its business model to embrace fully a professional service delivery model within the next five years “otherwise it might be too late” for some operators.

The traditional medicine supply model alone will not sustain community pharmacy into the future, he says.

However, he says there are positives in the agreement, such as the delinking of remuneration to the costs of goods; $1.26bn earmarked for professional programs: which includes $50m for the pharmacy trails program.

“The AHI was a significant change… and has stabilised our dispensary remuneration, which is the cornerstone of the community pharmacy network.

“On the other hand, we see delisting medicines such as Panadol Osteo and Panadol as a flawed policy.

“Additionally, the co-payment discount will significantly disrupt the community pharmacy market place.

“I believe the government will aim to take credit for giving patients access to cheaper medicines.

“But the corollary will be those patients who consume and need the most medicines, such as Safety Net patients, will receive no monetary benefit from the discount, only a delayed passage to their Safety Net.”


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