Monday, September 25, 2023

Support for regional, rural and remote pharmacies: Butler

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The Hon. Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, Media Release, 28 July 2023

The Albanese Government is investing $148.2 million in regional, rural and remote pharmacies, as they transition to providing a broader mix of services and play an even more central role in the health care of Australians.

The four-year funding, which begins on September 1, will help pharmacies adjust to the transition to 60-day prescriptions.

Pharmacies in regional, rural and remote Australia (known as areas 2 to 7 under the Modified Monash classification method) with average script volumes equalling dispensing income of under $1 million in the 12 months to 1 April 2023, will be eligible to receive a new Regional Pharmacy Transition Allowance (RPTA).

The new transition allowance will mean significant additional support over four years:

  • $52,030 in a regional centre or outer suburb (MM2)
  • $396,909 in a large rural town (MM3)
  • $344,697 in a medium rural town (MM4)
  • $338,477 in a small rural town (MM5)
  • $213,391 a remote community (MM6)
  • $198,263 a very remote community (MM7).

The new allowance is in addition to the doubling of the budget for the Regional Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance (RPMA), which came into effect on 1 July.

The RPMA increase that took effect on 1 July mean that a pharmacy dispensing 50,000 scripts a year will likely receive over four years: 

  • $24,000 in a large rural town (MM3)
  • $41,440 in a medium rural town (MM4)
  • $70,880 in a small rural town (MM5)
  • $100,320 in a remote community (MM6)
  • $129,760 in a very remote community (MM7).

When combined, the two allowances will mean that the average reduction in dispensing revenue will be offset this financial year, with continuing support and a gradual step down over four years, as the patient uptake of 60-day prescriptions increases.

Pharmacies hold a special place in rural and regional Australia, as a critical part of the fabric of a community and often the most accessible health setting.

They also face particular challenges, because a smaller pharmacy often has a smaller customer base and a smaller retail footprint. Dispensing medicines often makes a larger proportion of the revenue mix for such pharmacies.

The new transition allowance also comes on top of a major 7 per cent increase to Government payments to every single pharmacy that took effect on 1 July. This boost to pharmacy payments was nearly double the increase to Medicare rebates that took effect at the same time.

The transition allowance is the final reinvestment measure to be announced from the $1.2 billion that the Government is reinvesting into community pharmacy.

It will work alongside other reinvestment measures that open up growth areas for pharmacies to expand their services, like delivering vaccines on the National Immunisation Program, providing opiate substitution medicines, and medication support in residential aged care facilities.

The Government will soon launch the National Scope of Practice Review to explore other ways to enable and support pharmacists to play an even more central role in the healthcare of Australians.

Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:

“60-day prescriptions mean twice the medication for the cost of a single prescription. It will save money and time for more than 6 million Australians with an ongoing health condition.

“This new transition payment will provide significant additional support for more than a thousand pharmacies in regional, rural and remote Australia.

“Pharmacies hold a special place in rural and regional Australia – they’re a critical part of the fabric of a community and are often the most accessible health setting.

“We want to make sure that regional and rural pharmacies are given the opportunity to seize these new growth opportunities, just like city pharmacies.

“Dispensing medicines is complex and critical, but it is not the only reason that pharmacies and pharmacists are so highly valued.

“This Government is committed to providing more opportunities for pharmacists to play a more central role in the healthcare of Australians.”

Related story: Cheaper medicines and backing local pharmacies: Butler

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