Are pharmacists being paid extra to do their job?


Remuneration models, MedsChecks and CMI provision are on the Department’s agenda in the lead-up to the 7CPA, Senate hearing reveals

Department of Health bureaucrats have revealed some of the government’s target list of objectives up for review in the approach to the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement.

Speaking at last week’s Senate Estimates Committee hearings, the DoH officials answered a series of questions on the government’s response to the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation (aka The ‘King’ Review) and how this would impact the 7CPA.

They also flagged audits of several pharmacy programs, including those for the provision of Consumer Medicines Information and for MedsChecks.

While many King Review recommendations had been rejected outright by the government, the hearing revealed that a recommendation on setting remuneration based on best-practice pharmacy had been “noted”, rather than dismissed. 

This recommendation (5.2 of the review) said: “The remuneration for dispensing paid by the Australian Government and consumer co-payments to community pharmacy should be based on the costs of dispensing for a best practice pharmacy”.

“We would be looking at the review and the recommendations that have been noted by government in order to develop the government’s position on the seventh agreement,” said Julianne Quaine, assistant secretary, PHI and Pharmacy Branch, of the Department’s Technology Assessment and Access Division.

Penny Shakespeare, acting deputy secretary, Health Financing Group had said the Department would be working with pharmacy to gather more information on the “cost structures of different types of pharmacies” as part of this process. 

“In fact, this was something that was identified in the review – that there was not that much information available.”

Meanwhile, Department officials also revealed that audits of the MedsCheck program would also feed into the 7CPA negotiation process. 

“There is a proportion of patients for whom we are actually assessing the health outcomes associated with the MedsCheck,” Ms Quaine said.

“We are using that information to inform ourselves about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the programs. We would be looking at that in the consideration of the next agreement”.

In one encounter, Senator Stirling Griff (NXT, SA) questioned whether pharmacies should be remunerated for providing MedsChecks.

In response to his question asking what should happen if a patient experiences a significant medical event within a year of having a MedsCheck, Ms Quaine said: “If a patient is still accessing a community pharmacist and accessing medicines, the pharmacist certainly does have a professional obligation to answer any of their questions about the medicines or discuss any issues they are having in terms of side-effects. That is part of the pharmacist’s normal professional practice.

Senator Griff said in response “does this mean that also pharmacists who participate in MedsCheck are effectively being paid extra to do a job that they should already be doing as part of their responsibilities?”

“No, I think the MedsCheck is over and above the normal professional practice of a pharmacist,” Ms Quaine responded.

 

 

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