Pharmacy is not getting the credit it deserves in creating savings through PBS reforms, Guild executive director David Quilty writes in this week’s edition of Forefront – and so it needs to educate stakeholders about the role it is playing.
“Recent political debate has been dominated by the question of how as a nation we can fund our future health needs,” Quilty writes.
“The prevailing view seems to be that we can’t unless we increase taxes or reduce the public’s expectations of what government is willing to pay for.
“With all the focus on money, there has been less media attention on the reforms required to make the system more efficient, delivering better and more cost-effective health outcomes for patients.
“For pharmacies and the broader medicines supply sector, this is frustrating given we are a beacon of successful health reform.”
Quilty points out that at considerable cost to those involved, community pharmacies and the pharmaceutical sector are set to deliver more than $20 billion in budget savings over this decade via the PBS reforms.
He also points out that it is “indisputable” that the PBS is sustainable, particularly compared to other health areas such as the MBS and public hospitals.
“This extraordinary turnaround shows that with the right policy settings and genuine buy-in from the sector itself, major health reforms are readily achievable,” he writes.
“Most importantly, it shows that reform does not have to be at the expense of patient outcomes.
“Consumers today have increased access through their community pharmacies to a broader range of medicines at reduced prices with no negative impact on levels of patient care.
“Unfortunately, pharmacies and the medicines supply sector have not always received the recognition they deserve for these reforms.”
Quilty says that last week, the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia used outdated, inaccurate data to identify PBS savings that are already being realised, for example.
“Clearly, we need to do more to educate the broader health sector and political and economic commentators about this stand-out PBS reform.
“We must also convince government, the primary health networks and private health insurers to fully utilise the national network of community pharmacies to drive further reforms in areas like chronic disease management and e-health.
“Pharmacies have proven they can embrace reform and stand ready to play a central role in an integrated primary care system with a strong focus on transitional care.”
Positive developments to date include the Pharmacy Trial Program, Minister’s Ley recognition of the role of pharmacists in the Health Care Home announcement, and the COAG Health Reform process which has been led by the Victorian and Tasmanian Governments.
“Eventually, community pharmacies will knock down the door as they have done in countries like Canada,” Quilty writes.
“However, in a health system that remains shy of reform, it will not be an easy road.”