Address to the Pharmacy Guild Annual Parliamentary Dinner
Thank you very much George. It is great to be here tonight with so many of my federal parliamentary colleagues, and especially the Health Minister Sussan Ley and her Assistant Minister’s Ken Wyatt and David Gillespie. I see Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister is here. And of course we have Sam Afsar here, the pharmacist whose business Pharmacy at 777 Nollamara in the electorate of Stirling, Michael Keenan’s electorate has won this year’s Pharmacy of the Year.
I want to acknowledge the role that community pharmacies and pharmacists play and thank you all for the remarkable work you do in primary health care. You support Australians in every part, every city, in rural and regional towns and remote communities.
Sam, the energy and the enthusiasm of your team was obvious and we are told that your team speaks 17 languages. Just having a chat earlier, Sam speaks four of the 17. I’m not sure the rest speak four languages each but he is clearly very multicultural. And as your colleague said it is a very lingual community. That is brilliant.
Your energy and passion are very obvious.
Your motto of focus, innovate and consistency is driving excellence in care and it is also creating an exciting working environment.
So, Sam, when I am next visiting Michael Keenan, who I understand attended your street party when you had 450 people, 450 of your patients and customers come in to share your success in Pharmacy of the Year - I will be looking forward to dropping in and seeing first-hand the great work that you’re doing.
I’d say to you all that my Government is committed to providing world-class health care that puts people at the centre of that care, and is there for our children and grandchildren in the years ahead.
We’re putting more funding than ever before into health and aged care – currently about $90 billion a year.
And more than $10 billion of that is spent ensuring that Australians have access to the medicines they need.
We are continually reviewing and updating the items on the PBS. Since October 2013, there have been nearly 1,000 new and amended listings to the PBS, worth a total of $4.2 billion.
Our pharmacists enable people to access these medications and importantly, as we saw in the video, as you all know from your own work, provide personalised service.
I’m proud of our track record in supporting pharmaceutical innovation and of the reforms we have implemented through the PBS Access and Sustainability Package.
System efficiency and the wellbeing of Australians are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to have both if we make sure that patients remain our focus.
The 6th Community Pharmacy Agreement provides a platform for the sector for the next five years. I want to acknowledge the significant contribution of the Guild and thank the Guild for making it happen.
As well as delivering an overall increase in remuneration, the 6th Community Pharmacy Agreement doubles the investment in medication management and primary health services—from $663 million to more than $1.2 billion.
Under the Agreement, existing community pharmacy programmes are subject to a cost-effectiveness assessment to determine whether they are providing the best value to the patient and the taxpayer.
These reviews are underway, and while the evidence is gathered and assessed, ongoing funding will be made available to support existing pharmacy programs until the reviews are completed.
I also understand the Pharmacy Guild and the Health Minister are working constructively on issues relating to the annual reconciliation of community pharmacy remuneration under the Agreement. I’ve been advised by Sussan that both parties are working together to progress this in a timely manner.
The Government is also working with the Guild to develop new solutions to capitalise on the genuine potential of your profession and I would encourage pharmacists to continue to explore the possibilities for your sector.
These include our $50 million Pharmacy Trial Program, through developing close relationships with your local Primary Health Networks and by engaging in shared collaborative care models like our Health Care Homes, which we believe is going to be a very key element in the future, if not the future of primary health care.
Now as you know, one in two Australians have a chronic health condition. One in five are managing two or more chronic health conditions.
Pharmacists play an essential role in addressing this emerging health challenge. People visit their local pharmacy for a range of reasons, from buying products to seeking advice. This increased contact offers an enormous opportunity for pharmacists to identify patients who have undiagnosed chronic and complex care needs and intervene early. You really are at the front line.
The Pharmacy Diabetes Screening Trial is just one example that could see pharmacists identifying and referring to a GP some of the half a million plus Australians who have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.
There are many opportunities, not just through the trial program, but also through the initiative and innovation of you, our pharmacists.
In particular, I am excited to see the possibilities of new technologies – like telehealth services, mobile apps and more – to strengthen the relationship between the consumer and their pharmacist.
As the Health Minister often says, GPs and pharmacists and are the two key pillars of our primary health care system. A teams-based approach that promotes coordination among these health professionals is essential to meet the emerging challenge.
Capitalising on these opportunities will see your sector evolve – as our health system evolves – to position community pharmacy very well for the future.
So we are thoroughly committed, and you know we are, thoroughly committed to you, to the community pharmacists of Australia.
Watching the video, we just saw, of Sam’s pharmacy at 777 Nollamara is a great example of why we support pharmacies being owned by a pharmacist.
The work of Sam and his team, and thousands of pharmacists like them, show that the established community pharmacy model continues to serve Australians well.
Local community pharmacists are tuned in to the unique needs of their area, their community of which they are part and individual patients of whom they are friends and neighbours.
In the audience tonight we also have pharmacists who support remote communities by participating in the Remote Area Aboriginal Health Service, arrangements to help chronic patient’s access medicines.
During the election I promised you that I would look at ways to improve the Quality Use of Medicines under the Remote Area Aboriginal Health Service Program by ensuring appropriate remuneration for pharmacists who deliver rural and remote scripts in that setting.
So, I am very pleased to announce that from the 1st of January next year, 2017, total payment for these rural scripts will be equivalent to the full dispensing fee.
This recognises the additional effort and expertise required to issue these scripts.
This is an important step that will help our dedicated pharmacists working in remote areas to address the barriers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians face in accessing medicines.
The Coalition also recognises that most pharmacies are small businesses. So we have put in place changes to the tax system to help small businesses, including pharmacies, thrive.
As part of our 10-year Enterprise Tax Plan, we are increasing, from the current $2 million to $10 million, the threshold at which small businesses can access a range of concessions. This will allow more businesses to claim immediate tax deductibility for asset purchases costing less than $20,000 until 30 June 2017. And of course it will reduce the rate of company tax.
These tax changes will put money back in the hands of small business operators, like many of you and allowing greater options such as re-investment or expansion.
The reality is pretty straight forward - if you reduce the tax on businesses, you increase the return on investment. If you increase the return on investment, you will get more investment. You get more investment, you get more economic activity, and you get more employment. So that’s why we are committed to it. That’s why we are backing you and are committed to you, your enterprise and the innovation which drives it and makes you competitive, makes you seek always to find, as Sam has done, new and better ways to serve your community.
Now this is an exciting time. It is an environment in which your government is listening to you, working with you to expand and reinforce the work of pharmacies and pharmacists and working with you to implement new technology and patient-focused service models.
So I want to thank you, on behalf of the Government and indeed on behalf of all Australians. I think I can speak on behalf of all parties in this regard – it’s not often you can do that nowadays but I think can do tonight. I want to thank you all for the help you bring to so many on a daily basis through good advice and professional, caring attitudes – a compassionate approach, a profession whose object is service, whose object is the care for and love of humanity.
And I want to thank you also to the Guild for working with politicians , governments of all persuasions to ensure that community pharmacy and our health care system remain strong and viable for the future needs of Australians, for keeping Australians stronger and healthier all the time. We salute you, we support you and we thank you.
Thank you very much.