Consumers should be concerned by reports that the Commonwealth Government plans to cut $3 billion from the PBS in next month’s federal budget, says the PSA.
PSA says such cuts may negatively impact on quality medication use and health outcomes for Australians.
“Cutting the PBS doesn’t just mean reduced access to medicines; funding for essential pharmacist-delivered services is also dependent on the PBS budget,” says National President of the PSA, Grant Kardachi.
“Our 18,000 members – most of whom are working in community pharmacies across Australia – are deeply concerned about the potential impact further cuts will have on patient health.
“We have had reports of an unprecedented number of pharmacy foreclosures in the past year or so. Efficiencies gained by government over the past five years through the Community Pharmacy Agreement are already compromising the network of community pharmacies for consumers – further cuts may be a disaster.”
Kardachi says that pharmacists’ wages were alarmingly low, and further cuts would mean owners having to make additional staff cuts and potentially reduce services, which would have a very negative impact for consumers.
“The latest policy includes discounting the PBS patient co-payment,” he says.
“It also includes removal of subsidies for some over-the-counter medicines when written on a prescription.
“The modelling of this proposed policy needs to include a patient health impact assessment, particularly for patients on lower incomes as these medications would otherwise count towards their safety net.
“This safety net is critically important for low-income families and those with chronic illnesses.
“I would encourage the Government to examine the impact these policies firstly have on consumers.”
The PSA has presented a range of options for pharmacist services which could help maintain the viability and sustainability of the health system, while addressing the health needs of consumers.
“The Government should be looking longer term and reviewing professional pharmacist services over the term of the next Agreement for efficiency and efficacy, in much the same way as it is reviewing MBS services,” Kardachi says.
“This would result in more targeted and evidence-based funding of services and avoid the dangers associated with wholesale PBS cuts, which I believe could seriously compromise the delivery of pharmacists’ services, quality use of medicines and consumer health.
“We need to be working together to maintain safety, quality and standards, in addition to achieving savings and sustainability.”