Guild Dinner: Pharmacy gets bipartisan support

The importance of community pharmacy in Australia was strengthened as Pharmacy Guild of Australia President George Tambassis highlighted recent successes, outlined strategic initiatives and thanked Government leaders for their continued support for community pharmacy.

“This is our opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous working relationships we have with all sides of politics in this place,” Mr Tambassis said at the Guild’s Parliamentary Dinner, addressing party leaders including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Australian Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Catherine King and other members of parliament.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison showed his respect for pharmacists and the role they play in the community. “You don’t just fill scripts – you look out for people…you fill a gap that no supermarket or mega-mart can ever fill,” he said.

On working together he said the government would continue to work with the Guild “to deliver new reforms to community pharmacists and we are going to work closely with the Guild, as always; someone we can trust to deal honestly with, to be upfront.  We won’t pull your chain, we’ll be upfront and talk about the issues, get them on the table and then we’ll work them out like we’ve always done”.

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten said pharmacists were central to the changing face of healthcare in Australia, stressing the personalised aspect of services delivered by community pharmacies.

“But you need appropriate Government funding,” he said. “If we ask you to do more, we will provide you with support.”

Mr Shorten said Labor want to ensure all Australians continue to have access to a network of well-distributed pharmacies providing professional advice and support.

“We want pharmacies to hold their place on the frontline,” he said.

In a big year for community pharmacy in Australia, with the Guild celebrating its 90th anniversary and the PBS its 70th anniversary, Mr Tambassis said “Recent PBS reforms have enabled the Commonwealth to contain PBS expenditure levels, enabling the listing of a substantial number of new and often very expensive medicines on the PBS, which would otherwise be unaffordable and inaccessible for the vast majority of Australians.

“The dispensing of PBS medicines – more than 300 million prescriptions a year – is a very effective public-private partnership. It serves Australians well, and it needs to be nurtured, valued and maintained.

“We appreciate the opportunity we are given by everyone here to put the case for community pharmacy.  Across Australia, local pharmacies play a vital part in the health system – dispensing PBS medicines, providing expertise, care and advice to patients across a broad range of minor ailments, and forming part of the collaborative network of pharmacists, doctors and allied health professionals.”

Referring to the significant contribution pharmacist vaccinators have made to herd immunity through influenza vaccinations in all States and Territories, Mr Tambassis thanked the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, for his public acknowledgement that the growing availability of pharmacist vaccination contributed to a much lower influenza rate this year.

“It has also been a year of inquiries and reports”, Mr Tambassis said. “One I’d like to briefly mention is the Queensland Parliamentary Committee inquiry into aspects of pharmacy ownership and pharmacy scope of practice. I was very pleased to see the all-Party committee recommend that the pharmacy ownership requirements contained in the Pharmacy Business Ownership Act in that State be retained – and that in the Committee’s view no reason to deregulate the industry had been demonstrated. A finding with which the Guild heartily agrees.”

Mr Tambassis also outlined two significant initiatives for Community Pharmacy.