Pharmacy key in health opportunities: Greens

Senator Richard di Natale at a previous Pharmacy Guild dinner
Senator Richard Di Natale at a previous Pharmacy Guild dinner.

Australia needs to stop seeing health spending as a crisis and focus on opportunities instead, says Greens leader Richard di Natale – and pharmacy is a key element in doing so.

Senator di Natale wrote to the Pharmacy Guild ahead of the upcoming election to express the Australian Greens’ support for community pharmacy.

“The Greens believe that spending on health is an investment and that as a wealthy country, we are lucky to have the resources required to ensure that Australians have access to the essential treatments and procedures they need to live a healthy life,” the Senator wrote.

“Of course we should work hard to ensure our health system is efficient and that we get value for the money we spend, but we need to move past viewing health spending as a crisis, and look at the opportunities.

“The Greens believe pharmacy is a key element of that.

“The Greens believe that the tendency for the debate to focus around the contribution of GPs and hospitals on reforming the system misses an opportunities for pharmacy to be engaged more, drawing on their experience and their linkages with the community, to drive better health outcomes.”

He says that the Greens are supportive of broader calls for pharmacies to provide greater service to patients, and are particularly interested in the rollout of the Pharmacy Trial Program, “and the trials which will seek to expand the role of pharmacy in delivering a wider range of primary healthcare services to patients”.

“The Australian Greens are committed to a focus on early intervention and screening, and I am particularly pleased to see a focus on these elements in the program.

“The Greens are committed to drug law reform and harm minimisation policy, and recognise that pharmacists are often on the front line.

“I applaud the Guild’s commitment to reducing the social and economic costs of drug abuse in Australia and your work through the Methadone maintenance programs. We would hope to see more pharmacies engaged in these programs.

“The Greens also believe pharmacists will also be critical in the response to the significant harm caused by abuse of prescription medicines.

“With Benzodiazepines, including sleeping pills and common medications for anxiety, claiming more lives than either illicit drugs or alcohol, this is an issue which requires urgent attention from federal and state governments, in collaboration with pharmacists, doctors and the pharmaceutical industry.”

Di Natale also said that while the Greens recognise the benefit to community pharmacy businesses of having certainty through the five-year Community Pharmacy Agreements, they are concerned “that greater transparency in the negotiations with government be achieved”.

Finally, he says that he is pleased to see the Greens’ advocacy on medicinal cannabis beginning to bear fruit, with early moves towards a regulatory framework.

“We will continue to advocate for access for patients to medicinal cannabis, and for pharmacists to be involved in the development of policy, protocols and guidelines for its use and dispensing,” he says.

“I am grateful for the strong and constructive relationship between the Australian Greens and the Pharmacy Guild, and look forward to building on this to amplify the voice of community pharmacy in broader health reform.”

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