Date: 23 April 2014
By Executive Director, David Quilty
Last Tuesday, Federal Treasury released the Issues Paper for its wide-ranging Competition Policy Review.
It specifically refers to pharmacy advice/dispensing services as an example of a constraint on the supply of services and asks whether the objectives of such restrictions can be achieved in a manner that is more conducive to competition.
Coincidentally (or not), the very next day Janet Albechtsen used her column in The Australian newspaper to launch into pharmacies, pharmacists and the Guild.
She called pharmacy ‘a cartel’ and ‘an entitlement racket if ever there was one’; described pharmacists’ dispensing fee as ‘double-dipping’; and accused the Guild of ‘thuggery’ and ‘chutzpah’.
The Guild's measured response, through our Communications Director Greg Turnbull, emphasised the continuing high levels of public trust and support enjoyed by community pharmacies.
Only last week, the latest Roy Morgan Image of Professions survey confirmed that pharmacists are rated the second highest of all professions in terms of their ethics and honesty.
Time and again, pharmacists and pharmacies achieve satisfaction ratings from the Australia public that outrank virtually every other profession or business sector.
The latest Menzies Nous biennial national survey found that pharmacy delivers the highest levels of public satisfaction of all health care services with 88% of respondents saying they were satisfied with the pharmacy service they receive.
This result has been confirmed by a recent Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) consumer research project undertaken as part of the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement.
This PwC research found 98% of survey participants had no difficulty accessing a community pharmacy with 90% satisfied with the interaction they had with their pharmacist (based on their last three visits to the pharmacy).
These repeated votes of public confidence are testament to the fact that Australia's system of community pharmacy continues to serve Australians exceedingly well.
As the old adage goes, don't try and fix something unless it is broken. Community pharmacy is one of the least broken parts of the health system, let alone the wider economy.
That is why both sides of politics have always quite sensibly resisted the calls by the ultra economic rationalists to foist their textbook theories on pharmacy.
However Janet Albrechtsen's anti-pharmacy tirade is a timely reminder that the zealots have not gone given up.
Urged on by big business and the supermarket duopoly, they are looking in mouth watering anticipation at the Abbott Government's Competition Policy Review as the chance to finally get their way.