7CPA falls ‘well short’ of consumer hopes

health professional at computer with magnifying glass

A consumer group is complaining that the general public has not had adequate input into the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement

The Consumers Health Forum says that it is “disappointed” that the 7CPA “failed to give more weight to proposals for greater input from consumers and more transparency and deregulation to better meet community interests,” says its CEO, Leanne Wells.

“Pharmacies are the most common point of contact between consumers and the health system, yet the Government and the Pharmacy Guild have declined to accept a place for the consumers at negotiations for the agreement,” Ms Wells says.

“For the first time, the Agreement includes the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia as a signatory which is welcome broadening of input.

“The new agreement does include provision for the government to involve CHF in consultations, but this is well short of the ideal we sought.

“CHF has recommended reforms to place pharmacy on a more consumer-responsive basis including clearer information on medicine pricing and services offered as well as separating payments for professional services from the rest of the agreement.

“The response to these proposals has been minimal.”

Ms Wells said that despite several recent Government inquiries recommending changes to the community pharmacy sector, “there has been no real governance reform”.

“As a result there is little in this agreement—despite its central role in transactions with consumers— that would support contemporary realities of consumer expectations and technological change,” she says.

Ms Wells says that the CHF is concerned about the “lack of provision in many cases of readily available information about prescribed medicine for patients”.

“The agreement states that community pharmacists be encouraged to provide consumer medicine information. On the face of it this is hardly an adequate requirement given that the dispensing fee is remuneration in part for the provision of medicines advice,” she says.

“The Agreement should be consumer-centred, putting the delivery of appropriate and affordable medicines to consumers at the heart of what it does.

“Community pharmacy is an integral part of the quality use of medicines and its place in ensuring medicine safety as well as access should be recognised and built upon.”

“One enhancement to the agreement has been the introduction of a Closing the Gap initiative. This includes a commitment to work with NACCHO and to have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person chair the Pharmacy Consultation Committee when there is discussion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific measures.

“CHF had also sought more rigorousand improved arrangements for the provision of medication management for residents in aged care, whether in institutions or at home.

“The agreement supports improvement and to follow the recommendations by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.”

The CHF’s Report Card on the 7CPA can be accessed here.

Leading Age Services Australia welcomed the Agreement, particularly the $96 million commitment for next financial year to increase medication management, with a focus on aged care.

“The allocation of $96.4m for medication management programs in Year 1 demonstrates a genuine commitment to helping aged care overcome some of the concerns highlighted by the Royal Commission,” CEO Sean Rooney said.

“Importantly, the agreement states the intention to maintain the increased investment of $25.5 million a year in community pharmacy programs in response to the interim report of the Royal Commission in to Aged Care Quality and Safety.

“LASA strongly advocated for the aged care sector to be given a voice in the shape and scope of medication management programs.

“This includes the Quality Use of Medicines Services in aged care, plus enhanced Home Medicines Reviews and Residential Medication Management Reviews (follow up services).”

He said that it was essential that funding for medication management and quality use of medicines for older Australians does not decrease in Years two to five of the Agreement, and instead increases to cater to the growing ageing population.

The 7CPA also needs to clarify the reimbursement of pharmacists as part of multi-disciplinary case conferences which have been highlighted as a key strategy to improve clinical outcomes in aged care, he says.

“We strongly support mechanisms being identified by the Government to enable pharmacists to take a pivotal role in these discussions.”

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