A Shorten Labor Government would lead early and inclusive negotiations towards the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, the ALP has written in a letter to the Pharmacy Guild expressing support for the sector.
“Labor greatly values the vital role played by community pharmacists, who are often the first port of call for Australians in need of health advice, and essential medicines when they are unwell,” wrote Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King.
“Labor has played an important role in Community Pharmacy Agreements over the past three decades, and will continue this important partnership on our return to Government. A Shorten Labor Government will honour the terms of the Sixth Agreement.
Shorten and King say Labor has long supported the pharmacy location rules and voted for their renewal in 2015.
“We also support the current system of community pharmacy, including pharmacy ownership by pharmacists (under State and Territory law), as the best means to achieve a well-distributed network of pharmacies providing professional advice and support.
“In relation to the current Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, we note the ongoing review of pharmacy remuneration and regulation which commenced in late 2015 pursuant to the Agreement.
“We will be interested to see the findings of the Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review Panel, but this will be just one consideration in the negotiation of the next Agreement. A Shorten Labor Government would lead early and inclusive negotiations towards the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement.”
Labor says it is vital that funding directed to the pharmacy trial programs and professional services in the 6CPA are mobilised “as soon as possible to ensure patients get the benefit intended from this funding”.
A Shorten Labor Government will improve the Remote Area Aboriginal Health Services Program to remunerate pharmacies when they dispense Section100 RAAHS medicines at the normal level of dispensing remuneration (when not a bulk supply), funded from within the existing funding envelope of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, the letter says.
“The ongoing inequity for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients must be resolved as soon as possible.”
Labor also plans to reverse the Liberals’ plan, introduced in the 2014 Budget and as yet not passed by the Senate, to increase PBS copayments by $5 for general patients and 80 cents for concessional patients, and to increase the PBS safety net thresholds, the letter says.
“There is considerable evidence that countries with more accessible primary care achieve better health outcomes, at lower cost, and with greater equity, than do countries with a higher focus on acute care.
“Detecting illness earlier, and treating it earlier, improves patient outcomes and avoids the need for more expensive treatments. That is why a Shorten Labor Government will have a strong focus on primary health care and preventive health measures.
“Community pharmacy is obviously an important part of this and we would look forward to working with the Guild on reform and innovation in this area.
“Labor agrees with the Guild that our health system needs to be more co-ordinated and co-operative. Of course, an effective eHealth record is essential to this. A Shorten Labor Government will continue to build the eHealth record system while ensuring appropriate privacy and security protocols.”