Hard bargaining

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The Federal Government is planning on having the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement signed, sealed and delivered by the end of the year, a senior bureaucrat says

Speaking at the Pharmacy Connect conference in Sydney yesterday, Glenys Beauchamp, Secretary of the Federal Department of Health, confirmed the government wants the 7CPA to be wrapped up this year.

“We have to get really cracking on it,” she told conference delegates. “We’ve already started”.

“There’s been one round table with a number of stakeholders, and we’re planning to hold another stakeholder session in October, where i’d like to look at problem solving on the areas where’s there’s broad agreement, rather than focusing on the areas on which we can’t agree and just throw grenades and criticise,” she said.

“But there will be challenges ahead managing all the different points of view,” said Ms Beauchamp, who has led the department since 2017. “Everyone seems to be an expert on what should be happening with pharmacy, and has their fingers in the pie.”

There were three core areas of focus for the government and department when approaching the CPA, she said: developing new and innovative programs, increasing the reach of digital health and electronic prescriptions, and workforce development, including delivering people and services to areas of need.

The government is viewing the CPA as an integral component of its 10 year long-term health plan, she said, giving the “opportunity to look at the sector as a whole and develop a new care model.”

As a component of this, Ms Beauchamp said the Department of Health had been consulting with pharmacy groups on the nearly completed MBS review.

Also speaking at the conference, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s CPA negotiator, Trent Twomey, said the Guild wanted to see “substantial changes to pharmacy’s scope of practice” in the 7CPA.

“While we lead the world in many areas of practice, this is one area where Australian pharmacy holds the wooden spoon,” he said.

Mr Twomey, the Guild’s Queensland president, reminded Ms Beauchamp of pharmacy’s ability to provide universal access to medicines to all Australians, but that they should offer the same price for PBS medicines. 

“Location rules exist whether you live in Bamaga [at the top of Cape York] or Brisbane,” he said. “If we had a free market, there wouldn’t be a pharmacy in Bamaga. However people in Bamaga shouldn’t have to pay more for essential PBS medicines, which is what happens with the optional $1 PBS co-pay discount.”

“All Australians should have access to the $1 discount, and this is a policy the Guild are taking to the agreement,” he said.

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