Pharmacy Groups Symposium Communique
The inaugural Pharmacy Groups Symposium was held in Adelaide for the first time on 18 and 19 October 2022.
As the premier pharmacy group engagement event, the Pharmacy Groups Symposium hosted over 100 representatives from across Australia, employing over 55,000 Australians across 4,500 locations.
Representatives were joined by academics, subject matter experts, key industry figures and the Hon Mark Butler MP, Commonwealth Minister for Health and Ageing and the Hon Chris Picton MP, South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing who spoke about the challenges and opportunities ahead for community pharmacy.
All Pharmacy Groups Symposium presenters and participants thanked community pharmacists for their outstanding efforts during the COVID pandemic and for their pharmacies remaining open and accessible for patients. Attendees recognised the trust and respect that community pharmacists are held in and how, on a daily basis, they go above and beyond to assist patients.
The main themes of the Pharmacy Groups Symposium were:
• Full scope of pharmacy practice,
• Community Pharmacy Agreements, and
• Workforce and the changing nature of a pharmacy degree.
The Pharmacy Groups Symposium recognised that over the last three years, over $430 million has been removed from the first three years of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA) due to inflationary pressures outstripping remuneration growth.
The Pharmacy Groups Symposium has affirmed its support for the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to lower the general patient co-pay from $42.50 to $30.00 from 1 January 2023. At a time of rising inflation and significant cost of living pressures, this is an important measure to ensure that individuals and families don’t go without their necessary medicines. Critically, the Symposium also recognised that more needs to be done to lower the general patient co-pay further to $19.00. This would ensure that more Australians can afford their medicines and we return to a truly universal health system. Australia remains a global outlier when it comes to the high level of co-payments paid by patients.
Focussing on the patient centred evolution of community pharmacy practice the Pharmacy Groups Symposium affirmed its desire to see the professional programs included in the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, remade in the form of short, standard and long consultations to assist pharmacists in better meeting the needs of their patients.
The Pharmacy Groups Symposium reaffirmed the need for medication management review services as part of core pharmacy services alongside dispensing, prescribing and administration. These services can only be fully and properly recognised and implemented for patients with a nationally consistent approach across all State and Territory jurisdictions.
The North Queensland Community Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot was endorsed by the Pharmacy Groups Symposium as the minimum benchmark for scope of practice, by all pharmacists, in all pharmacies.
The Symposium discussed and agreed that in the best interests of patients and to ensure patients receive high quality primary health services when and where they need them most, that all pharmacists should and can become full scope of practice pharmacists. Pharmacists practicing to their full scope is a win for patients. All health professionals should practice to their full scope.
International evidence was presented showing that other jurisdictions are advancing pharmacy practice with funded service provision. For example, New Zealand community pharmacies run an anti-coagulation management service, British Columbia community pharmacies support patients through a Biosimilar patient support program and England and Denmark community pharmacies have access to a new medicine management program.
Discussion and feedback focussed on current and future workforce needs and the changing nature of pharmacy degrees in Australia. These discussions illuminated opportunities for the industry to grow its support of pharmacy schools and colleges across Australia. The Symposium acknowledged the importance of advocating for more funding of university pharmacy schools to assist in raising graduate numbers. We have a world class university pharmacy school network and we want to see more domestic graduates.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of technological change. Community pharmacy is not immune from this change, in fact, the introduction of e-scripts has in most instances elongated workflows while increasing consumer convenience. A strategic and long-term plan is needed to phase out paper scripts and must be accompanied by a largescale public and practitioner awareness campaign and the necessary funding to ensure and drive change management practices across the community pharmacy and practitioner sectors.
While displaying empathy for the context and the heartbreak behind the proposal to up schedule paracetamol, there are a number of other strategies that the Symposium would like enacted to balance the issues of paracetamol use for chronic pain patients and broader patient safety.
With ongoing natural disasters punctuating the lives of Australians and the very real possibility of further disasters due to uncertain weather patterns, medication management and adherence are being affected. Patients shouldn’t have to go without their medications due to natural disasters. The Symposium unanimously calls on the Commonwealth Government to restore the continued dispensing mechanism which existed during the 2019-20 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that Australians, in terribly stressful situations, don’t go without their life saving medications.
The Pharmacy Groups Symposium noted the ongoing preparation and strategic direction associated with the negotiation of the Eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement. The guiding principles of network sustainability and accessibility for patients no matter where they live across Australia were discussed and endorsed as the key guiding principles.
The Symposium recognised and celebrated the breadth and diversity of the community pharmacy industry, its people, its brands, its independents, its wholesalers, technology vendors and everyone who makes expert patient care possible.
The Pharmacy Groups Symposium will become an annual event as the community pharmacy industry continues to work together for the benefit of our fellow Australians.