Key pharmacy measures locked in: Guild

pharmacies better value: $20 note, pills, stethoscope

The Guild has welcomed Budget measures such as a solution to the risk share issue and improved 6CPA community pharmacy programs

It also welcomed the Government’s willingness to review the $1 copayment discount and its decision to commit to the location rules beyond the life of the 6CPA.

“We certainly welcome the undertaking by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to work to ensure that community pharmacies are expressly identified as key stakeholders in primary health care programs and structures,” said Guild national president George Tambassis.

“The Government has recognised the key role that community pharmacy plays in the primary health care team, and the assistance that community pharmacy can provide in achieving the health system goal of providing the right care in the right place at the right time.”

Among the measures announced were $200 million in support for pharmacies to moderate the impact of lower than expected PBS prescription volumes under the 6CPA.

In 2015-6, total script volumes were 2.14% lower than forecast in the 6CPA. The amount will be paid over the remaining life of the 6CPA through an increase to the AHI fee.

The Government has finally committed not to proceed with the patient co-payment and Safety Net threshold increases that were first announced in the 2014 Budget.

The Guild also says the Government has indicated it is willing to “review” the optional copayment discount of $1 per script following the report of the King Review.

“However, its willingness to undertake this review does not indicate a current predisposition to discontinue the $1 discount,” the Guild said.

Mr Tambassis said that the Government has recognised the “significant pressure” on the sector and its importance in delivering affordable medicines and professional services.

“We are pleased to have reached an Agreement with the Government that supports community pharmacy in return for additional services and reform.

“These measures will have a tangible positive impact on the ability of community pharmacies to serve patients, to dispense affordable medicines, and to play a broader role in the provision of primary health care.”

The Guild says it will work with the Government to modernise community pharmacy programs in the areas of medication adherence and management, including in particular, improved medication management and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This will include increasing the capacity for remote dispensing and culturally appropriate care.

The pharmacy programs will be funded through a combination of maintaining existing levels of pharmacy program funding, and through an investment from the $600 million already committed in the 6CPA and held in the Contingency Reserve for new and expanded community pharmacy programs.

Specifically, from 1 July 2017, the $600 million held in the Contingency Reserve will support new and expanded pharmacy programs including:

  • Dose Administration Aids – providing government-funded DAAs to eligible chronically ill patients ($340m of $600m);
  • Staged Supply ($80m of $600m);
  • Expansion of MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck program ($90m of $600m);
  • Home Medicines Reviews, including follow up services in community pharmacy ($60m of $600m); and
  • Incorporating medication management programs within Health Care Homes ($30m of $600m).

“Australians will now have access to a wider range of services from their community pharmacy, including home visits to eligible patients to help them manage their medications,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.

The Government has committed to deliver the full value of $600 million within the period of the 6CPA.

Primary care

As part of the joint strategy towards improved primary care, the Guild will seek to build on the collaborative primary health care arrangements in place within the Primary Health Networks  that involve community pharmacies in the provision of support to patients.

The Government will work collaboratively with the PHNs to update the PHN guidelines and relevant documents, in consultation with the Guild, to ensure that community pharmacies together with General Practices are identified and represented as key stakeholders.

The Guild also says it is pleased that the joint strategy will include a renewed focus on the role of community pharmacies in the Health Care Homes trials.

The Government has undertaken to advise participating HCHs that the shared care plans for HCH patients should include a plan to manage their medication needs, where clinically relevant, working with the patient’s pharmacy, enabling the provision of necessary medication support.

The Guild says it will also work with its member pharmacies in HCH trial areas to build awareness of the trials and facilitate their engagement and collaboration with HCHs participating in the trials.

The Guild will continue to work with the Government on the development of new and innovative ideas to expand the role of community pharmacy in supporting primary health care for patients.

In terms of digital health records, the Guild is working in partnership with the Australian Digital Health Agency to maximise the uptake and clinical use of the My Health Record by community pharmacies. 

The Guild has welcomed the formal evaluation of the Participation Trials for the My Health Record which have confirmed the benefits of a national ‘opt-out’ health record to drive patient and health care provider uptake.

“As part of our support for Medicare and medicines, we are investing $374.2 million in My Health Record which will allow individuals to access and control their own medical history and treatments – such as medical tests and vaccinations,” the Health Minister said.

“This follows unanimous support at COAG for a national roll-out of My Health Record with every Australian to receive a record, or opt out if they so choose.”

The Government also provided the Guild with a commitment to the continuation of the community pharmacy location rules beyond the life of the 6CPA by amending the relevant sections of the National Health Act 1953 at the earliest opportunity.

Guild executive director David Quilty commented in Forefront that “the Guild knows that the sector is understandably anxious about the Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review (the King Review) and takes great solace from Minister Hunt’s express commitment in the agreement to work with the Guild in ensuring that the Government’s response to this Review maintains the community pharmacy model and secures a viable community pharmacy sector.”

The Guild says it will support the further pricing reforms that have been negotiated with Medicines Australia and the introduction of measures that improve the uptake of biosimilars.

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