From the President: What opportunities have been unlocked?

It has been just 18 months or so since I was joined by Health Minister the Hon. Greg Hunt in launching PSA’s flagship plan for the profession, Pharmacists in 2023.

The plan outlined system changes needed to unlock opportunities for pharmacists to be the best they can be. So, how far have we come in achieving this vision to date?

I am pleased to reflect that substantial progress has been made in a number of areas:

  • Action 1 (medicine safety): The confirmation of medicine safety as a National Health Priority Area has reset the agenda for reducing use of harm caused by medicines in this country. Work has now commenced on its implementation.
  • Action 2 (community pharmacy): 7CPA signed, with PSA as a co-signatory for the first time. Evolutionary in nature, 7CPA provides stability to pharmacists and signals review of the professional practice standards, which provide opportunity to enhance focus on medicine safety and complex supply arrangements (e.g. DAAs).
  • Action 3 (care teams): Funding of telehealth services and follow-up visits for medicine review services, the GP WIP and PHN projects have seen more pharmacists on the ground in aged care and primary care. These roles will continue to grow with time.
  • Action 4 (prescribing): Regulatory reform during COVID-19 has provided flexibility in medicine supply for pharmacists in emergency supply and digital image prescribing. These temporary arrangements may accelerate permanent pharmacist prescribing under structured arrangements.
  • Action 8 (health hubs): Significant and continued expansion of pharmacist vaccinations, with all states now permitting pertussis and MMR, while others have removed barriers to vaccination outside of a community pharmacy premises. The minimum patient age for vaccination has also been progressively lowered generally.
  • Action 11 (digital health): Significant advances have been achieved through electronic prescriptions, telehealth for medicine review programs, My Health Record and planning for secure messaging.

These are significant achievements in just 18 months. However, while we are moving quickly towards some goals, there are challenges to achieving others.

For example, while 7CPA provides certainty in maintaining remuneration to community pharmacies at similar levels for the next five years, it also constrains remuneration for pharmacists at similar levels for this period unless there is significant additional revenue from alternative revenue streams.

Similarly, financial pressures on state and federal governments from COVID-19 and deferral of 2020/21 budgets postponed until late this year have limited the prospect of funding for new initiatives and programs in the short-to-medium term.

Working to achieve the vision of Pharmacists in 2023 requires strategic planning and a staggered approach. Over the next year PSA will focus particularly on medicine safety, rural/ remote pharmacy practice, digital transformation and health hubs (including vaccination). This will include making the most of opportunities presented by royal commissions, government inquiries and government policy development, particularly in areas of aged care, disability and primary care plans.

It is only through you and your daily contribution to your patients that we can together create this better future. I encourage you to continue to extend yourself in your practice. Whether it be a trial program, new technology or changes in regulation, take these opportunities when they present to you and help create the profession’s future.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR Chris Freeman FPS, BPharm, GDipClinPharm, PhD, AACPA, AdvPracPharm, BCACP, MAICD