Scope of practice ‘contentious’ but must grow: King

For the first time, Labor’s new National Platform sets out a role for the pharmacy sector, says Shadow Health Minister Catherine King

Speaking at the Australian Pharmacy Professional conference on the Gold Coast, Ms King said that while the expansion of pharmacists’ scope of practice was “contentious”, it needs to continue and grow.

She said that Labor is continuing to consult on its 2018 Platform, which it expects to adopt at its National Conference in July.

But “the Platform is now explicit on the importance of pharmacists and pharmacies,” she said.

The Platform recognises that “you are medicines experts”; it recognises that pharmacists play a “crucial” role in delivering the National Medicines Policy; and it calls for primary health care reform to take better advantage of the community pharmacy infrastructure and workforce.

“On the last of those – you don’t need me to tell you that your scope of practice is a contentious issue,” the Shadow Minister told delegates.

“But it an important one as we seek to meet the health care needs of an older and sicker population, and define the role that community pharmacists will play in the future.

“Your scope of practice has already expanded into services that are also provided by other professions,” she said, such as influenza vaccination.

But “the greatest opportunity is in services that aren’t provided now, or aren’t provided consistently.

“If community pharmacies can identify and address gaps in our primary health care system, and contribute to system integration, you will serve patients more and better.”

The Guild’s strategic planning project, CP2025, is set to be useful in helping inform governments as to the role of pharmacy and finding solutions to challenges facing the health sector, as well as in future CPA negotiations, she said.

Ms King also outlined a number of ways that she and the Labor Party agree with Health Minister Greg Hunt, including that Labor welcomed Mr Hunt’s confirmation yesterday at APP that the Coalition Government will trial a new model to pay for high-cost medicines.

“The current system has prevented some pharmacies from dispensing some drugs – undermining your small businesses as well as access to medicines for your patients.”

However, she said Labor is “alarmed by reports that the Government has undermined the PBAC process in order to win support for the trial from the medicines industry”.

“The PBS has always been… defined by a rigorous focus on clinical and cost effectiveness. The politicisation of that process would be a shocking legacy for this Minister and this Government.”

She said she particularly supported the Government’s rejection of the King Review suggestion that vending machines could be used in place of pharmacies in some areas.

“That idea ignores the crucial role pharmacists play as trusted health care providers.”

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