Budget’s positive message to community pharmacy

The federal budget sent a positive message to community pharmacy with a package of measures aimed at providing certainty and stability for pharmacies and their patients.

The measures include:

* $200 million support for pharmacists in recognition of lower-than-expected script volumes: the Government will provide financial support to pharmacies to moderate the impact of lower-than-expected PBS volumes under the 6CPA.

* Improved 6CPA community-pharmacy programs: the Government will work with the Pharmacy Guild to modernise community-pharmacy programs to provide better primary healthcare for Australians in the key areas of medication adherence, medication management and improved medication support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, including through greater capacity for remote dispensing, and culturally appropriate care. The improvements will be funded through a combination of maintaining existing levels of pharmacy program funding, and investment from the $600 million already committed in the 6CPA and held in the contingency reserve for new and expanded community-pharmacy programs. Specifically, from July 1, 2017, the $600 million in contingency reserve will support new and expanded pharmacy programs including:

  • Dose administration aids (DAAs) – providing government-funded DAAs to eligible chronically-ill patients ($340 million).
  • Staged supply ($80 million).
  • Expansion of MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck programs ($90 million).
  • Home medicines reviews, including follow-up services in community pharmacy ($60 million).
  • Incorporating medication-management programs within Health Care Homes ($30 million).

The Government says it is committed to delivering the full value of the allotted $600 million within the period of the 6CPA.

* Removal of the sunset provision for location rules: provision of a commitment to the continuation of the community-pharmacy location rules beyond the life of the 6CPA by amending the relevant sections of the National Health Act 1953 at the earliest opportunity.

* Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review: a commitment to work towards maintaining the community-pharmacy model and securing a viable community-pharmacy sector.

* Optional co-payment discount of up to $1 per script: the Government has indicated it is willing to review the optional co-payment discount of up to $1 per script following the report of the Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review. However, its willingness to undertake this review does not indicate a current predisposition to discontinue the $1 discount.

* Compensation for community pharmacy and wholesalers: the Government will provide $10 million in compensation for community pharmacy over the life of the 6CPA because of the reduced remuneration driven by the pricing measures included under the strategic agreement with Medicines Australia. This $10 million will be paid in 2018-19 and 2019-20 through a further adjustment to the AHI (Administration, Handling and Infrastructure) fee, beginning on July 1 in each of these years. A further $15 million will be provided to wholesalers over the 6CPA as compensation for both the lower-than-expected script volumes, and reduced remuneration because of the measures under the strategic agreement.

* Recognising community pharmacy’s role in primary healthcare: the Government has also undertaken work with Primary Health Networks and with Health Care Homes (HCH) trials to ensure that community pharmacies are involved in supporting patients to further improve their health outcomes.

“The Government has recognised the key role that community pharmacy plays in the primary healthcare team, and the assistance that community pharmacy can provide in achieving the health-system goal of providing the right care in the right place at the right time,” Pharmacy Guild National President George Tambassis said.

However, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) said that while the budget provided financial sustainability for community pharmacy owners, it missed the opportunity for maximising and enhancing the role of pharmacists in Australia’s health system.

“Apart from the HCH program, all of these are programs currently being delivered under the 6CPA,” PSA National Vice President Michelle Lynch said. “This funding, while a welcome and celebrated investment, was intended to flow from outcomes of the Pharmacy Trial Program. So far, only one of three trials announced in March 2016 has commenced.

“If we are to see innovation and broadening the role of pharmacists in Australia to benefit consumers, how will this now be funded and scaled up after the trials as intended?

“Secondly, the agreement earmarked this $600 million to focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and rural consumers, who have the highest needs in our health system. How will this now be achieved?”