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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