Give us a seat at the 7CPA table: CHF

Following this week’s announcement that the PSA would be co-signatory to the 7CPA, consumers want a voice too

The inclusion of the Pharmaceutical Society in the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations is a positive step, but it also highlights that consumers should have a voice too, according to the Consumers Health Forum.

“We urge government to include consumers in these discussions which involve the provision of more than $20 billion dollars over five years for the dispensing of prescribed medicines to the community,” said CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells.

“While today’s statement is a welcome move away from the bilateral negotiations between the retail pharmacy sector and government, it is time that consumers also have a seat at the table in deciding how best to serve the interests of patients and community.”

She noted that the PSA’s new report, Pharmacists in 2023 – launched at the Canberra event where Health Minister Greg Hunt made the announcement that PSA would co-sign the 7CPA – advocates more patient-centric care.

The CHF strongly supported this approach, she said.

“The role of the pharmacists as dispensers, quality use of medicines advisers and deliverers of aspects of primary health care is an important area of reform.”

But she said a “significant gap” remains in ensuring customers always get the information they need about their medicines, highlighting the issue of CMI provision and advice.

“Consumer Medicine Information leaflets are increasingly unavailable and consumers have told us that often they do not get advice from pharmacists and/or doctors about newly prescribed medicine,” Ms Wells said.

“The preliminary results of a survey by CHF on the CMI issue found that the majority of people said when they were given a new medicine they were not provided a CMI by their doctor (91%) or pharmacist (60%).

“Additionally, most respondents (91%) reported their pharmacist had not even advised them where they could access the CMI.

“The CHF survey also found that when given CMIs, fewer than half of the respondents thought the CMIs readable or useful which reinforced other work CHF and others have done on this issue.

“The vast majority of respondents (91%) believed that provision of CMIs by either a doctor, a pharmacist or both should be mandatory.

“Such issues could be pursued more effectively if consumer representatives were involved in high-level decision-making and advisory forums with government and this should include the pharmacy agreement discussions.”

Pharmacy needs to move from a dispensing mentality to one of community care – a shift which pharmacy and GP leaders have been calling for, she said.

“CHF’s research shows that consumers trust pharmacists, value community pharmacy and want pharmacy services to be opened up and integrated with the rest of the health system.

“Consumers have formed specific perceptions and preferences based on their experiences with the sector and these should be heard and considered as part of discussions to shape the future of pharmacy,” Ms Wells said.

In welcoming the Minister’s announcement earlier this week, PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman told the AJP that part of PSA’s role as co-signatory could be “bringing the views and thoughts of some of the other groups with us, whether they be consumer groups or other organisations”.

PSA would have a responsibility to consider their thoughts, he said, as the Community Pharmacy Agreements affect them and the entire health system, not just pharmacists.

However, “I’m not suggesting all those groups become co-signatories to the Agreement,” he said at the time.

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