Health Minister Sussan Ley covers NDSS transition hiccups, prices of hep C medication and health care homes at the PSA 2016 conference

“Pharmacists and GPs represent the two central pillars of our healthcare system,” Ley told delegates at the PSA conference held in Sydney on Friday.

“My personal commitment to you is that I will work with all of you to develop and implement the best possible policy to product that high-quality healthcare for all Australians.

“What is that we as a sector want to focus on ahead? If we put the patient at the centre of our care philosophy, we will be able to provide the services that people need and rightly expect,” she said.

Health Care Homes

Pharmacists are “vital” to the Health Care Homes process with the potential to expand their role in rural areas, Ley said in a doorstop held at the conference.

One possible model involves a pharmacist based in a pharmacy but spending time in a Health Care Home and also on the road in a rural setting, said Ley.

“Obviously it’s not possible for a health professional to always come to the patient, but I think there are models that we can explore through the trials program that see an employed pharmacist, based in a community pharmacy, out on the road in a Health Care Home, in a patient’s home, and perhaps in an allied health facility,” she added.

“Health care homes will be a one-stop shop for health management, including GP and allied health care professionals including pharmacists.

“We see pharmacists playing a critical role in the new model. Their work eases the strain on the hospital system and help reduce medicines adverse events.”

King Review

Ley also pointed out the importance of the King Review and its discussion paper.

“It contains a lot of questions. They are not an indicator of my thoughts or the government’s thoughts. We are simply taking the opportunity – as we should – to get everything on the table for discussion,” she said.

While the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has responded to the King Review saying the pharmacy system “isn’t broken”, Ley stressed this is just one point of view.

“We all agreed to have this review. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone. My focus is that it covers the field – which it does, by virtue of the comprehensive nature of the discussion paper,” she said.

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) was funded by the Department of Health to consult on the King Review’s consumer survey, an “entirely appropriate” move considering the CHF is a peak consumer body, says Ley.

CHF deputy chair, Jo Watson, is one of the three panellists of the review.

NDSS transition

In response to a question from AJP about issues with the National Diabetes Services Scheme transition, to supply of diabetes products by pharmacies, Ley said her team is managing the issue.

“I’ve been very concerned about examples-albeit isolated incidents-of that transition not working as well as it could.

“At the highest level, my office is now working closely with Diabetes Australia and with pharmacy to make sure that the transition works well for patients,” she said.

Hep C drugs

Issues with the costs of hep C medicines are also being addressed by the minister.

“When it comes to the hep C drugs, we’ve had some conversations with the tax office prior to becoming a caretaker government, to make sure the cash flow issues were addressed,” said Ley.

“And my information so far is that a lot of the issues are hep C are being dissolved.

“It often seems to be that some pharmacies tend to be the place to go for hep C and they get the right strategies in place, and maybe some other pharmacies refer to those. But I’m not hearing as much back as we did in the early days so I’m confident that those issues are being sold,” she added.

“And I know that pharmacists will join me in celebrating the fact that 20,000 have started on hep C treatments and 5,000 have finished, and that means 5,000 are cured.”