The Government has reached in-principle agreement with pharmacists for a new pharmacy agreement valued at $18.9 billion over the next five years.
A key component of the agreement will include a doubling of investment in new and existing support programmes for patients to $1.2 billion over the next five years, including a greater focus on regional and rural services.
“This is recognition of the increasingly important role pharmacists play in a patient’s ‘medical team’ of health professionals and further demonstrates the Abbott Government’s commitment to delivering greater integration between health services in Australia’s primary care system,” said an update posted on the Department of Health website.
However, under the new agreement all pharmacy programmes – new and existing – will be scrutinised and approved by the Government’s independent Medical Services Advisory Committee.
This is part of an increased focus on evidence-based medicine and transparency, as well as recognition of the important role pharmacy plays in the primary care sector.
Consumers are also another step closer to accessing cheaper medicines, with the agreement to include the option for pharmacists to discount the patient-co-payment by up to $1, the statement said.
AMA Vice President Dr Stephen Parnis questioned the decision to dramatically increase funding to the pharmacy sector while doctors and patients were subject to a Medicare patient rebate freeze until 2018.
“The Health Minister said today that the Government wants pharmacists to play a greater role in the patient’s ‘medical team’ – but pharmacists are pharmacists, not doctors.
“Pharmacists are not medically trained to provide medical services, nor are they indemnified to do so,” he said in a statement.
“The Government has its health priorities all wrong.”