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Flexibility is the key to new location rules changes, Minister says

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says changes to the pharmacy location rules will achieve flexibility for pharmacy owners and for patients.

The new rules, published online today, will come in effect October 3, 2018. They have been developed following “extensive consultation and negotiation with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia”, the Department of Health says. 

While the straight line distance required between pharmacies has been reduced, pharmacies will have to stay in a location for longer before they can be moved.

“The amended Rules are intended to provide further stability of the community pharmacy network and address a number of minor anomalies that have been identified over time,” the Department said.

Mr Hunt said in a statement to AJP: “Pharmacists are an integral part of our community. These changes enable pharmacies greater flexibility to set up their business where they can best serve the community.

“This is particularly important for our older Australians who rely heavily on their pharmacist for advice and support.”

Among the key changes highlighted by the Minister are:

  • increased flexibility to allow pharmacists to relocate out of shopping centres – by “reducing the straight line distance that proposed premises must be from other existing pharmacies not located in the same large shopping centre, from 500 m to 300 m,” the Department’s FAQ page states;
  • amendments to the requirements for replacing a pharmacy that has relocated out of a shopping centre – the new requirements are intended to prevent the establishment of a new additional pharmacy in a large shopping centre where it is the replacement of a previous pharmacy that relocated out of the centre within the previous 12 months (ie. ‘backfilling’);
  • improving access to a pharmacy in large medical centres, by reducing the required distance from nearby pharmacies – from 500m to 300m;
  • an increase of the time that a pharmacist must remain in one location prior to relocating from two to five years; and
  • introducing a new rule that allows pharmacies to relocate between 1km and 1.5km from their existing location – providing “a degree of flexibility to relocate an existing approval whilst avoiding unnecessary clustering of approved premises by requiring that the proposed premises must be a minimum distance from the nearest approved premises”.

There are also some amendments made to definitions:

  • replacing ‘facility’ with ‘designated complex’ to describe a small shopping centre, a large shopping centre, a large medical centre or a large private hospital;
  • changing the definition of ‘gross leasable area’ as it applies to a supermarket to recognise the difficulty that some applicants had in sourcing the GLA as it was defined; 
  • changing the definition of ‘large shopping centre’ to include a supermarket with a GLA of 2,500 m2 rather than 1,000 m2, to be consistent with the supermarket GLA required for a small shopping centre.

The amended Rules are legislated under the National Health (Australian Community Pharmacy Authority Rules) Determination 2018 made under section 99L of the National Health Act 1953.

The amended Rules come into effect on 3 October 2018, which means that any application lodged on or after this date will be considered under the amended Rules.

Any applications received prior to this date will be considered under the Rules in effect prior to 3 October 2018.

A new application form will be required for applications made on or after 3 October 2018. The new application form is available Department of Health’s website or by phoning 132 290 and asking to speak to the Pharmacy Program Officer in your state or territory. 

Click here for more information

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  1. Michael Post

    ” Extensive consultation and negotiation with the Pharmacy Guild.”

    Why are pharmacists in general not consulted on rule changes – do we not all have an interest in effective business rules ?

    Have ‘ Guild negotiators ‘ signed binding agreements whereby they will keep confidential and not benefit personally or at arms length from these changes from the start of negotiation and in future ? Unlikely .

  2. pagophilus

    Window dressing. Remove the location rules entirely. It shields established pharmacies from competition.

  3. Jarrod McMaugh

    “an increase of the time that a pharmacist must remain in one location prior to relocating from two to five years”

    We have to work in the same place for 5 years? 😀

  4. Anthony Tassone

    The amendments to the Pharmacy Location Rules announced this week will ensure that Australians continue to have convenient access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) through their local community pharmacy.

    The changes address a number of unintended consequences that have been identified over time by the Government and the Guild (and its members). They also provide greater clarity and consistency in a number of areas.

    Under the terms of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA), the changes have been agreed between the Department of Health and the Pharmacy Guild, as the peak body representing community pharmacy proprietors, and approved by the Minister for Health.

    The Location Rules help deliver the overall objective of the National Medicines Policy to improve the health outcomes of all Australians through access to and quality use of medicines. Consumers have benefited over the past 25+ years from the Location Rules which have ensured a well-distributed network of community pharmacies supplying PBS medicines and patient services – where people live, and where they need access to medicines and related services.

    For critics of the Pharmacy Location Rules themselves, it is worthwhile referencing the post-implementation review (PIR) of Amendments to the National Health Act 1953 to extend the Pharmacy Location Rules to 30 June 2015 which in its executive summary stated:

    “The PIR concludes that the policy objectives of the Rules are consistent with the broad objectives of national health policy, in particular, the National Medicines Policy which has timely access to medicines as one of its four key pillars. In addition, there is a net benefit to the retention of the Rules, particularly for consumers in rural and remote areas.”

    Elected officials of the Guild are bound by confidentiality agreements in relation to the duties we undertake on behalf of our members that are not limited to discussions around Location rules. Claims of personal benefit being derived from the latest location rules amendments are unfounded, unsubstantiated and baseless.

    Anthony Tassone
    President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

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