From free to fee: Labor’s prescription policy ends once-free pharmacy services

Aug 18, 2023
Charging for what was previously free services, cutting staff, and trading hours are expected to take place once the 60-day dispensing policy starts on September 1. Source: Getty

It was the proposed policy to help millions of Australians save on medicine costs and spend less at the doctors, but a new report reveals that pharmacists will be forced to charge patients for what was once free services because of the introduction of the government’s 60-day dispensing plan.

According to the CommBank Pharmacy Insight Report 2023, the policy has put an overwhelming number of pharmacies in a difficult financial situation and are now looking at ways to mitigate the potential impact by offloading the costs to customers.

“Pharmacists are considering a range of strategies,” the report said.

“This includes 79.2 per cent who are evaluating charging for services currently provided free of charge, including delivery fees and blood pressure checks.”

The free services being assessed include blood pressure monitoring, dose administration aids like Webster packs for aged care facilities, and the delivery of medicines to customers’ homes.

“Over half are also considering increasing professional services, including vaccinations and consultations,” the report continues.

The report also states that because of Labor’s 60-day dispensing scheme, pharmacies will have to cut staff and operate shorter trading hours since it has been predicted that the value of their business will decline by 66 per cent over the next three years.

For the past few months, pharmacy unions have strongly lobbied against the change, arguing that their revenue loss– estimated at $3.2 billion–resulting from this move would severely impact vulnerable patients.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President Professor Trent Twomey says the report proves the Guild’s repeated warning that the 60-day dispensing would do more harm than good for local communities.

”This independent report confirms that patients will now be forced to pay for free pharmacy services under the Albanese Government’s 60-day dispensing policy,” Professor Twomey said.

”For months we have been sounding the alarm on behalf of patients and pharmacists and unfortunately, this Commonwealth Bank report has again confirmed our fears.”

The President of the Pharmacy Guild Victoria Anthony Tassone told Sky News Australia on Thursday, that charging free essential medical services isn’t something they want to do, but the industry is now being “forced” to make the change.

“We really don’t want to do this, but we’re forced to because of these rushed and poorly considered government changes,” Tassone said.

“We will be introducing a charge from the 1st of September of $5 for a blood pressure check and $5 for home delivery in the community.”

CommBank’s report comes after a survey conducted by the Guild of 1,000 pharmacies showed that 23 per cent have already adjusted their trading hours and 250 jobs have been lost because of the 60-day dispensing plan.

Leave your comment

Please sign in to post a comment.
Retrieving conversation…
Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up