On the 17 March, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Australian Friendly Society Pharmacies Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Given the long history of animosity between these two community pharmacy organisations, the inking of this agreement represents a seismic shift in the Australian pharmacy landscape.
These two organisations represent two distinct approaches to the commercialisation of community pharmacy.
Thus it has been and so it will always be.
The MOU allows for these differences. However, both organisations are totally committed to the sustainable provision of quality healthcare solutions to the communities they serve – this is the common bond that underpins the MOU.
The Guild has always carried the responsibility for ensuring that community pharmacies are able to meet the pharmacy healthcare needs of all Australians.
Even more definitively since the first Community Pharmacy Agreement was established some twenty years ago.
These agreements have ensured that Australians can access the quality healthcare they require of community pharmacies whilst at the same time ensuring that community pharmacies can deliver this into the future.
Friendly society pharmacies have always been both excluded from these negotiations and beneficiaries of the Guild’s endeavours.
This situation has now been formally recognised with AFSPA providing the Guild with the imprimatur to negotiate on its behalf.
From the Government’s perspective, the position of the Guild is consolidated as the latter enters the next round of negotiations representing all community pharmacies. For their part, the friendly societies will appreciate an increased opportunity to provide inputs to these negotiations.
One aspect of the community pharmacy agreements that has become more important with each successive agreement signed has been the way in which Government funds have been funneled through the Guild.
These funds are intended to develop, promote and implement pharmacy-based healthcare programs.
In the past these programs have been available to all but to Guild members at a preferential price.
The MOU provides friendly society pharmacies with additional access to Pharmacy Guild programs. The Australian Friendly Society Pharmacy Association will pay a fee each year for each of their member pharmacies to support the Pharmacy Guild’s endeavours.
It was at the Pharmacy 2008 Conference last year that Wendy Phillips, CEO of the Pharmacy Guild observed that friendly society pharmacies operate quality, professional community pharmacies. Worth noting here too is that friendly society pharmacies were very quick to take up the Quality Care Pharmacy Program when it was introduced some years ago.
This opportunity to participate in innovative Government-funded pharmacy-based healthcare initiatives is highly valued by the friendly society pharmacies.
The Government will no doubt be re-assured its social equity stance is better reflected in these new arrangements.
That the Guild and AFSPA have recognised that there is more that draws them together than pushes them apart is a credit to both.
There are no losers here, only winners.
Those responsible need to be commended by us all.