Don’t go to your doctor, the minister wants you to see the pharmacist instead

Pharmacies will be handed $1.26 billion for delivering healthcare services. Good for them. But meanwhile the government is not prepared to increase the Medicare rebates patients receive when they see a doctor.

As a result of the new health policies, visits to the doctor will become more expensive in the years to come, whereas pharmacies will be paid more to deal with health problems. With this move Health Minister Susan Ley seems to make a clear statement: Don’t go to your doctor, see the pharmacist instead.

A vague agreement

It could be me but I’m not entirely sure what the Health Minister will sign off on – it’s all still a bit vague:

The Pharmacy Guild says on its website: “The Government has committed to $50 million over the Agreement for a Pharmacy Trial Program to trial new and expanded community pharmacy programs which seek to improve clinical outcomes for consumers and extend the role of pharmacists in the delivery of healthcare services through community pharmacy.”

National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Grant Kardachi says: “PSA particularly welcomes the doubling in this agreement to $1.26 billion of funding for the provision of patient-focussed professional services.”

According to Australian Doctor magazine, “some $600 million will be spent on ‘new and expanded’ services, but there is no detail on what services this will cover.”

One thing is certain: Pharmacies are going to deliver more healthcare services – and at the same time the freeze on indexation of the Medicare rebates comes at a cost for patients.


Here re my questions:

  • Is Minister Ley’s decision helping to improve teamwork within primary care, or is it creating more confusion and frustration for patients and their doctors?
  • Can pharmacists and their assistants offer the same quality healthcare as doctors and practice nurses?
  • Can the person who is selling the drugs give independent health advice?
  • Why not spend part of the money on increasing the rebate patients get back from Medicare after visiting their doctor?
  • Why not spend part of the money on improving access to practice nurses and GPs?
  • Does this mean that doctors will miss opportunities to pick up on health problems, because patients will see the pharmacy assistant instead?
  • When the Pharmacy Guild talks about ‘evidence-based’ services, what do they mean? (given the fact that many community pharmacies also sell unproven remedies and products).

What do you think, is this good policy or not?

4 thoughts on “Don’t go to your doctor, the minister wants you to see the pharmacist instead

  • I have no answers but more questions. How will pharmacists be compensated for their time? Being aware of current pharmacy management, I know that there is a big push and pressure on staff by the big companies to reduce staff, costs, anything to make the bottom line healthier, never mind the customers! Are pharmacists going to be taking time from their profitable dispensing work to attend to time consuming queries from customers. We are customers, not patients, and unless a payment for their time is forthcoming, and more profitable than their dispensing work, which will take precedence? I think we know.

    Liked by 1 person

  • You might be interested to read some of the general public’s comments on this issue:
    Relevant links at our Facebook page include:


    Here’s just a sampling of the response of everyday Aussies:

    “Surely high quality health care is about a patient centred team who all work together… this looks like playing medical practitioners off against pharmacists with nothing more than saving a few dollars in mind. Personally I want my G.P to do the diagnosis, a nurse to attend to the wound care and a pharmacist to keep tabs on the medication… different training, different skills, all important for a good outcome but not interchangeable. Each profession has standards, frameworks for practice and levels of accountability which are covered by professional indemnity insurance. A recipe for disaster in my book.” (Wendy).

    ” I for one will see my GP when sick, and a pharmacist to get any prescriptions filled. I cannot understand why our doctors are being punished so much. It takes years of study to become a GP, they know their patients, the pharmacist does not.” (Maureen)

    The public know what’s going on, and GPs actually have more support from the mainstream community than perhaps many of us might realize.

    Liked by 1 person

  • From a closer reading of the document, I don’t think there actually is an increased role for pharmacists in this agreement. There is rather a change in the way community pharmacies are remunerated. Traditionally, pharmacists have provided these services “for free” as they are cross-subsidised by higher medicine prices. As medicine prices are quite rightly falling to their real value, this agreement covers pharmacists to be paid directly for the services they are already providing.

    My real concern is the lack of detail. Is direct referral for HMRs to an independent accredited pharmacists continued? Are the caps off HMRs? Are they back to once every 12 months? Why are medschecks (which are not collaborative) funded to $14.9miion when HMRs that are collaborative funded to $14.5 million?

    All new and existing services have to go through MSAC or PBAC now, and the process. This means that they’ll all be assessed for evidence. The funding is not allocated after the first year of the agreement pending the outcomes of the committee.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Unfortunately Our Government continues to implement aspects of overseas policies regardless of what doctors say about it – after all we as GPs are only in it for the money according to them. This clinical role for Pharmacists is the norm now in places like the UK, Canada, US, South Africa and off course in most developing world countries.

    Unfortunately I think they will just continue ignoring us, or more likely portray as as greedy and trying to guard our income, and give the Chemists, Nurse Practitioners, Physiotherapists and Ambos increasing autonomy.

    It is very unlikely that we will win this battle


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