King Review recommendations could hurt wages: PSA


Jo Watson (centre) with fellow review panelists Professor Steven King (l) and Bill Scott.

Pharmacy could “give back” $1.9 billion over the next four years through a flat dispensing fee option, the King Review Interim Report has suggested

The report acknowledges that there is significant opportunity to better utilise the skills of pharmacists to support improved access to health services and improved health outcomes for the community—comments welcomed by the PSA.

It also recommends abolishing the controversial $1 script copayment.

But the report by the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Panel also contains issues of concern, says PSA national president Joe Demarte.

“The implication that pharmacy could give back $1.9 billion over the next four years through a flat dispensing fee option of between $9 and $11.50 is concerning, particularly given the heavy impact of price disclosure,” Mr Demarte says.

“We are seriously concerned about the flow-on effects of this for pharmacists’ wages—the main cause of dissatisfaction in the profession.

“Furthermore, while the interim report acknowledges the positive impact of a range of pharmacists’ services, it’s vague on presenting concrete options for progressing services to benefit consumers.”

Mr Demarte says there are many positive options in the interim report, such as the Panel’s interim recommendation for developing a “more flexible approach to the delivery of pharmacy services” and support for “integration of healthcare services, while also encouraging innovation in business models.”  These points were a key focus of PSA’s submission to the Review.

He says PSA agrees with the Review Panel that all parties responsible for the major components of the delivery of PBS medicines need to be represented as signatories to the Agreement.

“We are delighted to see the Panel make this significant recommendation to involve the peak national body for all pharmacists in future Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations,” Mr Demarte says.

“Having PSA at the table for these discussions is a smart move. It will add considerable value to future Agreements by including PSA’s recognised expertise as well as giving a voice to all pharmacists working to deliver services to the community; this is something PSA, our members and consumers have advocated for more than a decade.”

Other key recommendations and principles in the interim report, called for by PSA in its submission, include:

  • The abolition of the $1 discount on the PBS patient co-payment.
  • Consideration of increasing the cap on HMRs, combined with more targeted eligibility criteria based on need.
  • Diversifying and broadening the remuneration base for pharmacists and pharmacies outside of PBS expenditure.
  • Payment for services delivered in pharmacies to match those delivered in other health services (e.g. pharmacist-administered vaccinations).
  • Homeopathic products should not be sold in PBS-approved pharmacies.
  • The ability for an Aboriginal Health Service to employ pharmacists should be trialled to see if it improves services and outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Mr Demarte says: “We are also delighted to see consumer research commissioned by the panel identified that placing pharmacies inside supermarkets is not a popular solution to address perceived consumer access issues.”

He says while the report addresses some of the major factors and issues affecting Australia’s pharmacy landscape and supported a sustainable community pharmacy network, there are still many questions to be answered including the delivery of professional pharmacy services.

“We will consult with members from all areas of practice to comprehensively assess the interim report, which will inform PSA’s detailed response,” Mr Demarte says.

Mr Demarte says PSA looks forward to meeting with the Review Panel to discuss the report in more detail as well as working with the Government to assist in ensuring pharmacists’ role within Australia’s health system is optimised.

Noting the Panel’s request for evidence that supports particular options and their implementation, PSA will develop a comprehensive response to the interim report.

PSA has urged all pharmacists to share their views with PSA regarding the report’s recommendations at pharmacyreview@psa.org.au

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