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You must be compared to other retailers, review chief tells pharmacists

The federal government’s ongoing review of pharmacy remuneration and regulation must consider community pharmacies as retail outlets, its chairman says.

Appearing at APP2016 on the Gold Coast, Professor Stephen King told delegates that as community pharmacies selling retail goods in a retail setting “you are retailers. So why shouldn’t we consider you as retailers and compare you to other retailers?”

In fact, when compared to other retailers he sees pharmacies as performing relatively well.

“You face a lot less pressure than most other retail sectors and share a level of goodwill unmatched by other retailers,” he said.

Professor King, chair of the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation panel said he promised a fair but comprehensive process to examine how the sector operates and is paid.

At an occasionally tense session he gave no definitive answers but said the panel was still gathering information and feedback on the industry.

“You need to ask yourselves if your profession belongs in the retail space. Is this model what an allied health profession should look like?”

Provocatively, he raised the possibility of splitting the advice function of pharmacy from the dispense function, leaving community pharmacy to merely dispense medicines, along with other relevant retail front-of-shop products, while medicines advice was provided by pharmacists co-located in GP clinics.

The panel is due to release a discussion paper in April, before undertaking a national consultation process from June, Professor King said.

An interim report is due to be released in the second half of 2016, with a final report to be delivered to the government in March 2017.

A spokesperson said the Pharmacy Guild of Australia was “very pleased that Professor King took the opportunity to address delegates at the Australian Pharmacy Professional conference on Saturday, and to take questions from the audience”.

“The Guild is committed to working constructively with the Panel, and is actively doing so on the basis that they bring an open mind to their deliberations and will consider the issues on the merits.

The Guild’s approach is to take every opportunity to demonstrate to the Panel the benefits of the existing community pharmacy model, which is one of the most successful and sustainable parts of our health system. Fundamentally, we see the Review as an opportunity to build on the outstanding contribution that community pharmacies and their highly professional staff already make to the health system”.

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