RACGP questions partnership between health insurer and chemist chain

Doug Hendrie

7/03/2019 3:58:27 PM

A health services partnership between one of Australia’s largest health insurers and largest chemist chains has been slammed by medical bodies.

Dr Harry Nespolon has described the new health services deal as an ‘attack on general practice’.
Dr Harry Nespolon has described the new health services deal as an ‘attack on general practice’.

The RACGP and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) have both described the deal for an unspecified range of health services between Bupa and TerryWhite Chemmart as an attack on general practice.
The deal threatens to exacerbate tensions between doctors and pharmacists, following recent claims by the Pharmacy Guild that investing in general practice would be a ‘disaster’ for Medicare.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon told newsGP the latest move is beyond the scope of practice for pharmacists.
‘This is an attack on general practice and fragmentation of care. If you’ve got a health problem, go and see people trained to deal with health problems – like your GP,’ he said.
‘What is the problem we’re trying to solve here, when 89% of the population can access a GP within 24 hours?’
‘There’s a never-ending failure of the health insurers to deal with primary healthcare. They don’t know how to deal with GPs.
‘If they’re really interested in preventive care and stopping people going to hospital, they should be trying to work out how they can form a strong, relevant relationship with general practice.
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone earlier criticised the deal, claiming it represents an attack on general practice and could lead to patients receiving inappropriate healthcare and advice.
‘General practice is the foundation of quality primary healthcare in Australia, and any threats to undermine it or replace it with inferior models of care must be rejected,’ Dr Bartone said in a statement.
‘It is outrageous that a large health insurer like Bupa would endeavour to undermine general practice, especially after a thorough Government review of private health insurance to ensure that policy-holders received high-quality and value for money for their significant investment in insurance.’
Dr Bartone said doctors are the only health professionals trained to fully assess a patient, initiate investigations, make a diagnosis, and recommend clinical treatments.
‘There is no doubt that hiving off certain aspects of healthcare, such as screening and pathology-ordering, only duplicates effort and fragments care,’ he said. 
The deal announced earlier this week will affect Bupa’s four million health insurance customers, and give them access to ‘a range of health services and benefits’ from any of the almost 500 TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacies, as well as a health app designed to provide ‘personalised care’.
Bupa’s Managing Director, Dr Dwayne Crombie, said the partnership is intended to deliver more value for money for customers and make healthcare easier to access.
‘Health insurance has traditionally had limited involvement in pharmacy. This partnership will provide customers with an opportunity to reduce costs on medication and pharmaceutical supplies and have ready access to healthcare advice and preventative care,’ he said in a statement.
TerryWhite Chemmart CEO Anthony White said the partnership is an important strategic alliance.
‘We have a reputation for delivering professional trusted advice, great value prices and highly accessible frontline healthcare. Our partnership with Bupa will allow us to offer that service to more Australians,’ he said.

fragmentation of care health insurance pharmacy primary care

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Aline Smith   8/03/2019 7:46:37 AM

Really? I don't believe it! the strategic alliance described by Terry White CEO is a massive access to their chemists to 4 million Bupa private health insurers. Will these pharmacy stop selling a myriad of 'natural, homeopathic, non evidence based herbal "products to patients including oxygenated water? I think we should ask our patients to leave Bupa

Dr Mark Henschke   8/03/2019 8:56:20 PM

Pharmacists have completed a four year bachelor's degree that I assume is evidence based. Surely there is a major conflict of interest when a tertiary educated pharmacist recommends minerals and vitamins and other products to a patient with an uncomplicated viral respiratory tract infection and the patient pays out $50-$60 for non-evidence based therapy. Expensive urine!!! and the chemist has pocketed the money.

Dr Halvita Kankanange Anura Sri Kariyawasam   10/03/2019 10:39:03 AM

I hardly seen anyone go to pharmacy for simple isssue such as viral conjunctivitis sending away with advise but sell OTC medication something which is not really needed. This cost to patient ( non PBS ) and sometimes ended up with adverse reactions.
I do not believe this reduces the cost and unnecessary treatment.