What the Guild wants


Guild chief negotiator lays out 7CPA aims and ambitions, with dispensing to remain central, but a greater focus on consultation

Protecting and reinforcing the viability of pharmacy’s core role of dispensing medicines, while also ensuring the growth of consultation-based services, will be central to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s negotiating position this year.

Speaking at the Pharmacy Connect conference in Sydney last weekend, Trent Twomey, the Guild’s chief Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiator, outlined the organisation’s objectives as discussions begin with the Federal Government move into overdrive.  

Mr Twomey, said the Guild wanted the controversial $1 optional PBS co-pay discount, that had caused much disagreement between it and the government, to be made compulsory to ensure all Australians had a level medicine cost playing field.

“People in Bamaga [Cape York, in far North Queensland] shouldn’t have to pay more for essential PBS medicines, which is what happens with the optional $1 PBS co-pay discount,” he said.

“All Australians should have access to the $1 discount, and this is a policy the Guild are taking to the agreement. Australian’s always support a fair go, and this policy will ensure this for medicine prices.”

The Guild was also calling for “substantial changes to pharmacy’s scope of practice” as one of it’s core 7CPA objectives, said Mr Twomey, the Guild’s Queensland branch president.

“While we lead the world in many areas of practice, this is one area where Australian pharmacy holds the wooden spoon,” he said.

The two central objectives he outlined are:

  • Providing all Australians with timely, affordable and equitable access to essential medicines and pharmacy services
  • Supporting the sustainability and viability of an effective community pharmacy network

Within these objectives, he identified three ‘essential elements’:

  • Patient access to pharmacists in community pharmacies working to their full scope of practice
  • Transitioning pharmacy programs and services from a discrete ‘occasion of service’ to a consultation model
  • Assurance of the safety and quality of medicine supply and pharmacy services

He said the dispensing fee remained vital, and the Guild would ensure the agreement protected its role in maintaining pharmacy viability, while arguing for the efficacy of additional services being offered through the pharmacy network.

Vaccinations and the diabetes screening trial had proven what community pharmacy could do to improve community health outcomes, he said.

Mr Twomey also took the opportunity to address some myths that he said had built into the narrative around the previous agreement, and were being spread in mainstream media sources in the lead-up to the 7CPA.

These myths are:

  • The 6CPA provided a windfall gain for community pharmacies
  • PBS spending is blowing out and is not sustainable
  • All community pharmacies are profitable
  • Community pharmacies net profit ratios are greater than the rest of retail and comparable medical services 

Australian Taxation Office data showed that the windfall claims were a total myth, he said.

“The ATO data showed that 17% of community pharmacies don’t break even in recent financial years. And in terms of other medical services, this same data showed that, on average, GP clinics and medical centres were three times more profitable than pharmacies.”

Mr Twomey’s presentation followed that of Glenys Beauchamp, Secretary of the Federal Department of Health, who confirmed the government wanted the 7CPA to be signed by the end of 2019.

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