‘A lot of the advice you give is free, and it’s really unfair.’


NSW minister highlights pharmacist role but says supportive regulations need to be made, while panellist points out lack of remuneration

“I am one of the biggest fans of pharmacists,” said Bronnie Taylor MLC, NSW Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women at the Pharmacy Connect breakfast for women in pharmacy on Saturday.

“There’s many things that pharmacists can do,” she said, but added: “We have to make sure the regulation exists to be able to do that – and work with various groups including the AMA, which I’ll leave up to you to do.”

She said pharmacists have a “very, very vital role to play” particularly in rural and regional NSW.

“Keep doing what you do. You need to tell your story about how you do immunisations now. Tell your stories and keep doing what you do because we really need you,” said Ms Taylor.

Caroline Diamantis, NSW Guild vice president, argued that pharmacy is the first port of call for many people to get advice.

However she said pharmacists don’t get appropriately paid for their time.

“Sometimes our advice is for them to go to the emergency ward, or the doctor, or we give advice to go home with a heat pack. That takes 15 minutes of my time,” said Ms Diamantis.

“Who needs to pay [for that time?],” she asked.

“If you went for the same advice at the GP they would charge for it under the MBS.

“How do you introduce that to the community, that you’ve just taken my time and that should be a consultation fee?”

Panellist Monica Schlesinger, director and CEO of the Australian Health and Science Institute, said she frequently goes to see the pharmacist so she doesn’t “have to wait an hour like with the GP”.

“I get alternative pathways and advice with trust and sincerity,” she said.

However Ms Schlesinger added: “A lot of the advice you give is free, and it’s really unfair.

“You should get consumers to advocate on your behalf, including to get access to MBS items.”

Pharmacist and former NPS MedicineWise CEO, Dr Lynn Weekes, agreed.

“Don’t give up on [access to] MBS items,” she told delegates.

“It’s about saying it’s a valued service that needs to be recognised by the government.

“Health insurance as well – we need to be thinking about that here. And patients as well, whether they can pay for the services directly.”

Associate Professor Linda Leung, a panellist and specialist in human-centred design research, said pharmacists should think about providing services in a tiered model or even a subscription-based model.

“Subscription services are a validated, proven model where you pay for a certain amount and get a month for services, advice or even medications included,” A/Prof Leung suggested.

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