The following is a message from Professor Trent Twomey, National President of the Pharmacy Guild.
In March this year, I was honoured to be unanimously declared by the National Council as the National President of the Pharmacy Guild.
I promised then that I and the National Council would work hard to promote the interests of community pharmacies to ensure our prosperity and our ability to meet the needs of the communities we serve.
The first 100 days of your new National Council have been completed and I welcome the opportunity to relay just some of the work we have been undertaking.
Clearly, a central focus of our work has been how community pharmacies can be fully integrated into the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations. Sooner rather than later. We have been pushing strongly for this and in April we welcomed the National Cabinet’s decision to bring forward the use of community pharmacies. In late April, National Cabinet stipulated that it was up to the States and Territories to incorporate community pharmacies into their Covid-19 rollout plans in rural and remote areas where there are no or limited other places patients can access the vaccine. This has added to the confusion and complexity of onboarding community pharmacies and we are still seeing disparate approaches taken by the various jurisdictions. Our aim is to have all of the nearly 4000 pharmacies approved by the Department of Health to deliver all Covid-19 vaccinations utilised in the fight against the virus.
Queensland was the first State or Territory to start the community pharmacy Covid-19 vaccination program with the Boonah Pharmacy taking the honour on 7 June as the first pharmacy in Australia to give a patient their vaccine.
The delivery of vaccinations is an integral part of your National Council’s continuing efforts to have community pharmacies allowed to work to their full scope of practice. This is in the interests of patients and the future of our primary healthcare sector and will enable community pharmacies to deliver more services to patients and help ease pressure on other areas of the healthcare sector. It is time that we are universally recognised as primary health professionals and it is imperative that Governments and colleagues in other areas of primary healthcare recognise us and ensure the skills and knowledge of community pharmacists are fully utilised.
We have strengthened our advocacy in this area with the release of the Full Scope of Practice paper which further cements the Guild as the peak body to drive the profession forward.
The Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement was signed last year after a very intense negotiating process and now your National Council is working hard to see that the objectives of the Agreement are met and that timelines for implementation of projects, programs, and processes are adhered to. Agreement work never stops and we already are in the planning stages for the next Agreement so that we achieve the best possible outcomes for members and your patients.
Community Service Obligation
A significant development has been the announcement from Pfizer Australia that it will return to distributing medicines through the Community Service Obligation (CSO) pharmaceutical distribution this year. This is good news for community pharmacies which will now be able to access Pfizer medicines under the CSO – which ensures equity of access to Pfizer medicines delivered across Australia under the same agreement as all other CSO distributors. It means less time and processes for community pharmacies in terms of managing their medicines for their patients and no one misses out on getting their Pfizer medicines on time from their local community pharmacy. This is a great outcome following strong advocacy for this by the Guild.
We have also secured an extension to the temporary Continued Dispensing (Emergency Measures) which will take them through to 31 December 2021. Extending these arrangements provides another option for consumers to continue to access their PBS-subsidised medicines if they are having difficulty getting to a prescriber to obtain a valid prescription. The extension makes good sense in enabling access to medications and saves on Medicare rebates that did not have to be paid to renew a script in these instances.
Skilled Occupation List
National Council also has been very active in presenting representations to the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to add community pharmacists to the list of essential professions under the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) allowed to continue to migrate to Australia whilst our borders remain closed. This advocacy includes submissions to National Skills Commission stakeholder surveys and meetings with departmental officers. We also have had submissions to the SOL reviews that were referred to by the Australian Pharmacy Council’s evidence to the Senate Inquiry into skilled migration.
We are constantly looking at ways to improve community pharmacies do business and one example is that we have negotiated with NAB to provide a service of great benefit to Guild members who bank with NAB. NAB now supports community pharmacies through the ability to complete credit card payments for prescriptions and pharmacy-only medicine using their online e-commerce facilities. So if you have a website with an online shopping cart this will make it easier for your patients to access products and services online. If you are yet to build an online service, please contact Guild Digital. We are also working with other banks to secure similar benefits for members.
A highlight of the past 100 days was the very successful APP2021, which returned after a year’s absence because of the pandemic. A huge turnout of delegates and exhibitors saw it described as the biggest indoor event in Australia since the start of the pandemic.
For my part, I have attended a Branch Committee meeting with State and Territory Guild Branches, which I feel is critical in ensuring I stay connected with what is happening across our national membership, and recognise and understand the issues that are challenging community pharmacies across the country.
I have personally met face-to-face with most members of the Federal Cabinet and Federal Shadow Cabinet to advocate on behalf of our members at the highest level of policy decision-making.
Other meetings have seen me engage with a wide variety of health and patient group stakeholders, wholesalers, university heads, Guild Group companies, and industry representatives.
We now look towards the Federal election which, while no date has been set as yet, will be an important milestone for the country.
We will continue to contact you with updates on the actions we are pursuing on behalf of you and your patients.
Click here for the first 100 days brochure.
Source: The Pharmacy Guild of Australia/National President of the Pharmacy Guild, Professor Trent Twomey.