While the Health Minister’s APP keynote speech provided much-needed hope and encouragement, the pharmacy sector is at a tipping point, says Pharmacy Guild Executive Director

Minister for Health Greg Hunt impressed the community sector with his off-the-cuff speech at APP last week, writes Guild Executive Director David Quilty in his Forefront editorial published Thursday.

However he adds that there are issues that the Guild is closely working on with Minister Hunt to ensure they are urgently addressed.

“What absolutely distinguished Minister Hunt’s speech was his genuine empathy for community pharmacies as small businesses and for pharmacists as health practitioners,” says Mr Quilty.

“The Minister showed from his own personal experience that he understands how important good health care is to the lives of everyday Australians.

“Importantly, he committed to the urgent development and announcement of a pharmacy plan. Such a plan, if it provides clarity and certainty for community pharmacies and addresses the major issues of concern for the sector – including risk share, location rules, access to community pharmacy programs and integration with primary health care – would be a major, and long overdue, step forward.”

Community pharmacies are trying to cope with the “very real impact” of price disclosure as well as a shortfall in script volumes compared with projections agreed to in the 6CPA.

“The 6CPA was always a balancing act, making it imperative that the additional investment contained in the agreement be delivered on time and in full to offset the impact of the $6.6 billion of budget savings in the broader PBS Sustainability Package,” says Mr Quilty.

“It is very positive that we have a Minister who empathises with pharmacies and is sympathetic to our issues. However our sector is at tipping point,” urges Mr Quilty.

“As literally hundreds of community pharmacy owners made clear during APP, they are anxiously waiting for the Minister to back up his strong words of encouragement and support for community pharmacy by delivering on the critical issues that he outlined in his speech as a matter of urgency.”

Minister Hunt attempted to reassure delegates and Guild representatives surrounding these issues at APP.

“I know, I hear how absolutely important this is from [Guild representatives], and each and every one of you,” he said.

“The progress externally and internally has been very good. The PM has been exceptionally supportive. It’s the job of those who count the beans to challenge every minister but my view is that working with [everyone] we will find an outcome on location [rules] and risk share to strengthen community pharmacy.

“[There] is modest progress on risk share. We’re working to get a [positive result] but there are reasonable expectations around that. But I am very optimistic.”

A decision should be looming as the Guild ramps up pressure on the Health Minister.

Former Guild national president Kos Sclavos told APP delegates last week that: “It’s one thing to say it and there’s another thing to do it. It’s literally 30 days. We don’t have until May when the budget is announced, in 30 days the expenditure committee will decide whether to give us the money.”

See David Quilty’s full article here.