There is evidence that the Australian Government is embracing a more integrated approach to health, with implementation of initiatives like primary health networks (PHNs) and the Government's Health Care Homes program. However, integration of community pharmacy into primary health care faces challenges, including the lack of realistic integration in PHNs, and in service and remuneration models from government. Ideally, coordinated multidisciplinary teams working collaboratively in the community setting are needed, where expanding skills are embraced rather than resisted. It appears that community pharmacy is not sufficiently represented at a local level. Current service remuneration models encourage a volume approach. While more complex services and clinical roles, with associated remuneration structures (such as, accredited pharmacists, pharmacists embedded in general practice and residential aged care facilities) promote follow up, collaboration and integration into primary health care, they potentially marginalize community pharmacies. Community pharmacists' roles have evolved and are being recognized as the medication management experts of the health care team at a less complex level with the delivery of MedChecks, clinical interventions and medication adherence services. More recently, vaccination services have greatly expanded through community pharmacy. Policy documents from professional bodies highlight the need to extend pharmacy services and enhance integration within primary care. The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's Pharmacists in 2023 report envisages pharmacists practising to full scope, driving greater efficiencies in the health system. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia's future vision identifies community pharmacy as health hubs facilitating the provision of cost-effective and integrated health care services to patients. In 2019, the Australian Government announced the development of a Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan which will guide resource allocation for primary health care in Australia. At the same time, the Government has committed to conclude negotiations on the 7th Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA) with a focus on allowing pharmacists to practice to full scope and pledges to strengthen the role of primary care by better supporting pharmacists as primary health care providers. The 7CPA and the Government's 10-year plan will largely shape the practice and viability of community pharmacy. It is essential that both provide a philosophical direction and prioritize integration, remuneration and resources which recognize the professional contribution and competencies of community pharmacy and community pharmacists, the financial implications of service roles and the retention of medicines-supply roles.
Keywords: Ambulatory Care; Australia; Community Health Services; Community Pharmacy Services; Delivery of Health Care; Integrated; Pharmacies; Pharmacists; Primary Health Care; Professional Practice.
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