Health Minister Sussan Ley has highlighted investment in professional services which is set to be part of the upcoming Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, as well as the uncoupling of pharmacist remuneration with the cost of medicines.
“One of the things pharmacists have told me, and told all of my colleagues and we’ve certainly listened to is that as the price of medicines goes down with medicines coming off patent, the retail margin for pharmacists also goes down and their remuneration goes down,” Minister Ley told reporters yesterday.
“That doesn’t always make sense. So what we’ve done in this agreement is de-link the remuneration that pharmacists are paid with the actual cost of the medicines.
“We can continue to make medicines more affordable for consumers while not affecting pharmacists’ remuneration.
“For the first time we’re giving them a handling, an infrastructure fee, that will assist them in the warehousing, the dispensing, of course the important advice they give.”
Another important ingredient in the 6CPA will be an investment of $1.2 billion for pharmacy programs, with pharmacy moving into some areas of primary care, she said.
“We’re going to take this as a staged approach. If pharmacists are going to be in the future key members of primary integrated healthcare teams, then we need to trial the things they’ll do, make sure that they’re evidence-based and lock them in for the future.
“There are many of these things that of course pharmacists do now – dosage administration aids, visiting aged care homes, delivering medication after hours.
“We want to make sure that we give them a key role in the primary care teams of the future. So that’s an exciting new structural reform for the future.”
She said an opportunity exists for pharmacists to step into the primary care space, but this will occur in a careful and evidence-based manner.
“So at the moment if something goes through our medical services advisory committee and gets ticked off as a primary care item to be delivered in a certain way, then that’s how it moves forward,” she said.
“So the trials that we’re going to start with pharmacy will allow pharmacists to apply for funding, to operate innovate programs, to do something differently, to demonstrate longer opening hours, to say, well, this is what we’re doing already and we think we can build on it, and to take a staged and careful move into the primary care space.
“But we want this to be evidence-based. We want this to proceed carefully and we know that over time the investment that we will make in this area will entrench our pharmacists as key members of our primary care teams.”