Consumer voices needed to balance owner influence: Wells

The Consumers Health Forum wants to be part of the 7CPA negotiations, says CEO Leanne Wells

According to the CHF, the “Government has left open the prospect of the Consumers Health Forum being part of the next pharmacy agreement as recommended by the Government-appointed Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Panel”.

In the final report of the King Review, it was recommended that the Guild be joined by the PSA and the CHF when negotiating the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement.

The Government’s response was to note the recommendation and to state that it is “committed to ensuring that all key stakeholders across the pharmacy sector, medicines sector and community are provided appropriate opportunities to contribute to the Government’s consideration of future remuneration, funding arrangements and service delivery through community pharmacy”.

The Government said it would “consider” the appropriate participation of representative stakeholders in related consultations and negotiations for future Agreements.

“At a time when CHF research tells us  that consumers trust pharmacists,  value community pharmacy and want pharmacy services to be opened up to be more integrated with the rest of the health system, the Government has supported  a limited number of the recommendations of the review to reform community pharmacy,” says CHF’s Leanne Wells.

“This is also despite calls from pharmacy and general practice clinical leaders that modern pharmacy needs to shift from its ‘dispensing’ mentality to one of community care.”

She says this only underlines the need for a consumer voice to “balance out” the influence of pharmacy owners, to ensure community pharmacy reflects community interests in the future.

“Over the years, the Consumers Health Forum has played a significant role in helping to shape important elements of community health practice,” says Ms Wells.

“This includes CHF’s initiating role in the genesis of the Australian Medicines Handbook, which now provides an independent and up-to-date source of drug information to foster rational prescribing in Australia.”

She says the King Review’s recommendations were aimed at making community pharmacy even more responsive to people’s needs.

“These recommendations include changing payments systems to enable pharmacists to more easily play an active role in primary health care, the introduction of minimum standards of service by pharmacies, and better means of evaluating the performance of pharmacies which a receiving more than $18 billion over five years to cover their dispensing and other costs.

“Community pharmacy negotiations which included representatives of consumers and professional pharmacists as well as pharmacy owners, makes sense when we consider the importance and cost of pharmacies to the community,” Ms Wells says.

“In the same way that consumers are now routinely involved in other high level decision making and advisory forums to government such as the Primary Health Care Advisory Group, the MBS Review Taskforce, PBAC, MSAC and the Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee, so too should they be involved in pharmacy agreement discussions.  

“It is nothing short of good public policy.”

Ms Wells said in a related blog that the King Review was a missed opportunity to make change.

She says the Government’s response “has been equivocal to major changes and to largely stick with the status quo. This has sparked much commentary with GP groups, lead researchers and CHF largely suggesting that it was a lost opportunity”.

“There is significant discussion still to be had about the future of pharmacy and its place in the primary health care system if consumer interests are to be served,” Ms Wells writes.

“A status quo approach to the professional services component of the Community Pharmacy Agreement is not the way to achieve this.”

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  1. PharmOwner

    Are consumers not represented by their elected officials ie the government in CPA negotiations? I thought that was what democracy was all about!

    • GlassCeiling

      Consumers are represented by Federal members in CPA agreements as comprehensively as employee pharmacists are represented by The Guild.

      We must have consumer and employee pharmacist advocates representing the interests of the majority of stakeholders.

      Employee pharmacists are the second largest body of PBS beneficiaries after consumers and should be represented as such.

      • Jarrod McMaugh

        Majority stakeholders would be the entity wanting a service (government) and the industry delivering that service (pharmacies).

  2. Michael Khoo

    Surely the CHF are aware that the vast majority of Public/Private partnership agreements are almost never negotiated in public.

    We are all aware that there are now a number of very well funded commercial entities that would seek to influence the outcome of the CPA’s for their own financial gain and to the detriment of community pharmacies and with little if any regard for the well-being of the Australian public. The increasing use of proxies by such entities, in both social and mainstream media is so blatant and rampant that even the most ridiculous and biased ideas are considered unremarkable in this current climate of hyper-cynicism and opinion disguised as fact.

    It could be argued that the value of the King review was largely undermined by the lobbying of such elements, and that the overall fate of the King review is a powerful argument for maintaining the commercial in confidence nature of community pharmacy/government negotiations.

    • Jarrod McMaugh


      There are 2 points about CHF specifically that make me feel it would be inapropriate

      1) they were originally created by government as an astroturfing exercise. Not 100% sure it’s not still the case

      2) “consumers” can’t become members. I’ve tried. Peak bodies and health charities can… But you begin to see the separation that exists between a health consumer & the board of CHF.

      In both cases, CHF isn’t an appropriate body to participate in any negotiations between private entities & government.

  3. David Lund

    Consumers are already involved, as they vote in the politicians who have the final say. Guild and government is enough to balance the argument

  4. Cameron Walls

    Surely introducing the PSA and CHF would still maintain a balance of “Consumer” and “Provider” perspectives? 2v2 plus, it will bring the bonus of a more vibrant and varied discussion in negotiations.

  5. Nicholas Logan

    It’s a bit like the Guild saying they want a seat at the table to negotiate CHF’s funding.

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