Professional Pharmacists Australia President, Dr Geoff March responds to the Federal Budget.
There is nothing in this Federal Budget that is particularly good news for Pharmacists, although there were not a lot of announcements that will have a direct impact on the sector. But with the CPA negotiations due to start shortly, that is not necessarily surprising.
In fact, perhaps the most interesting thing about this Budget was what was not in it – specifically, the fact that there was no extra money to make up for the loss of revenue from the speeding up of Price Disclosure.
Despite this being the number one ask of the Pharmacy Guild, and the subject of a high profile public campaign, this new Federal Government has locked in behind the decision of its predecessor on this crucial issue.
This alone is a sign that the days of relying on dispensing to fund pharmacy is coming to an end. To survive and thrive we need to concentrate on demonstrating our value and worth through professional services and the care we are able to provide patients. Not only will this ensure a stronger future for pharmacy, but it will lead to better health results and savings to the Health budget.
The one big announcement from the Budget for community pharmacy was the increase in the co-payment on prescription medicines.
PPA is extremely concerned about this for two reasons.
The first is that we believe it is another step towards the introduction of a user pays approach to health care. We do not believe that this move is either justifiable or required.
Further, we are extremely worried that this will lead to significant adherence problems. Pharmacists will have to dedicate time they do not have to ensuring that patients are correctly taking the required medication. This extra burden will not be financially rewarded and so in many instances patients will fall through the cracks as pharmacists, who are being asked to meet ever increasing dispensing targets, are unable to play this role due to a lack of time.
Not only will this lead to extremely bad health outcomes for patients but will also cost the taxpayer through even higher medication-related hospital admissions.
The most recent figures suggest that annually 230,000 people are admitted into hospital as a result of medicine misadventure, costing $1.2 billion.
We are extremely worried that as a result of this budget both of these figures could rise.
PPA is also has concerns regarding the introduction of a fee for patients seeing a Doctor. Not only is this an attack on the central tenant of Medicare, we also worry that it will lead to patients simply not seeking and receiving required treatment.
This is very concerning and will have a long term impact on the health budget.
It also is likely to increase the burden on community pharmacists as patients seek alternative sources of medical advice. Pharmacists, as trusted and respected health professionals working within the community, are likely to be sought out by people unable to pay to see the Doctor. It goes without saying that this would not be a good outcome for anyone.
While there is nothing in this budget that is good for pharmacists, indeed the changes are likely to be bad for our sector, we believe that the big issue facing pharmacy will be dealt with in the upcoming CPA negotiations. Broadly speaking the tenure of this Budget does not bode well for this process.
More than ever we need to be focusing on what we can provide for patients and how we can assist in being a part of better health outcomes. To continue to rely on profits facilitated by dispensing is not likely to receive a good hearing from this Government.
As we continue to build our campaign for changes to the CPA that will benefit non-owner pharmacists, patients and taxpayers this will be central theme.