Professional Pharmacists Australia is disappointed that employee pharmacists and consumers have been “completely shut out” of 6CPA negotiations, but it looks forward to a review of pharmacy outlined in the Guild-Government letter of in-principle agreement, including an examination of the location rules.
“We still have concerns with some of the questions that were raised by the Auditor General’s report released earlier in the year, and one of the things identified in that report was that the Guild was wearing many hats,” a spokesperson for PPA told the AJP.
“It’s a group that owns its own businesses. It’s also an employer association under the Fair Work Act, so it’s a voice for employers in that forum.
“It’s a lobby group, and it spends a lot of resources lobbying parliamentarians, as we’ve discovered over the course of this Agreement, so we’re concerned that they would be the sole gatekeepers of those additional funds for pharmacy, particularly around professional services.”
He says that over the last few months, part of PPA’s advocacy efforts has been to speak with policymakers about pharmacists, “not just the four walls of the pharmacy”.
“It’s been on our minds to put that front and centre in the minds of policymakers, and we do think that there’s some way to go when you consider that there’s 20,000 employee pharmacists and millions of consumers who are completely shut out of the process of determining the shape and form of pharmacy services over the next five years.”
The spokesperson says PPA does welcome the fact that the Government plans a review of all aspects of pharmacy, including pharmacy location rules, and that the organisation looks forward to participating in it; however pharmacy seems to suffer under “review after review,” he says.
“There’s a lack of will from political parties to bite the bullet and have a crack,” he told the AJP.
“So the question is whether or not this deal is one that is getting the best value for money from the Government, or delivering the best outcomes for patients, which is the concern of a lot of our members.
“I think the location rules act firstly, as a restriction on younger pharmacists’ ability to innovate in the space and compete against existing pharmacies.
“I also think there’s a sense that you can spend a lot of time defending these rules when really, we should be looking at what the services are that will most benefit consumers.
“A lot of time and money goes into appeals about the rules, they’re in and out of courts and tribunals and so there’s opportunity costs: we’re missing out on opportunities to do what’s right for consumers and health outcomes at the expense of what appears to be unnecessary regulation.”
A couple of days ago Health Minister Sussan Ley also highlighted the need to re-examine some pharmacy regulations.
“There have been calls for reviews and calls for change, so what the pharmacy sector and government have agreed is we will have a two-year review of both remuneration and location rules,” she said.
“So that will happen from 1 July and that will be an opportunity for everyone to have their say about how the location rules could work better and how the remuneration models are working in practice. It will give us a good idea to look at how this agreement rolls out.
“As Minister, I look at perhaps 40 appeals against current location rule decisions so that tells me that right here, right now, the location rules could work better – and pharmacists agree with me they could because those applications for – to step outside the location rules come from pharmacies, so we’ve got a good opportunity to work together in this review over the next two years.”
The spokesperson for PPA said the organisation welcomed the additional funding for professional programs as a great opportunity for employer pharmacists.