Minister Butler press conference at Adelaide - 13 November 2022

Read the transcript of Minister Butler's press conference on Omnipod DASH subsidy; NSW pharmacist prescribing; Strengthening Medicare Taskforce; scope of practice.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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MARK BUTLER, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: The Albanese Government was elected on a platform for delivering cheaper medicines, and also more support for the 130,000 Australians living with type one diabetes. On the first of January, we'll deliver the biggest cut to the cost of medicines in the 75-year history of PBS and on the first of July this year already, we delivered strong support to the type one diabetes community particularly their use of constant glucose monitoring with an investment of more than $270 million. And today I'm delighted to announce further support in the type 1 area with government support on the National Diabetes Service Scheme and the Prostheses List for the next generation of insulin pumps the Omnipod scheme. This scheme is a game changer for Australians living with type one diabetes, particularly for young Australians because it is a cordless device that fits very robustly onto the patient’s arm allowing them to continue to play sport, to play in the playground at recess and lunchtime, to go swimming, to have a bath with the device on - all the time with parents having confidence to be able to remotely monitor and supply insulin levels to their often very, very young children. So in addition to our commitment to deliver cheaper medicines we’re delivering on our promise to make lives easier for the 130,000 Australians living with type one diabetes. 


JOURNALIST: Minister, the New South Wales government's announced pharmacists will be able to prescribe antibiotics, the contraceptive pill and repeat scripts to take the pressure off GPs. Do you think it's the right move? And should the policy be nationwide? 


BUTLER: The New South Wales Government hasn't chosen to reach out and have a discussion with us about this. So I'm going off media reports, as you are. But I have said time and time again, that at the time of soaring demand for health care and the real challenges of workforce supply, it's important that all of Australia's healthcare professionals work as close to their scope of practice as possible. We're stepping through those issues carefully on the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, which is working towards the end of the year make recommendations about our investment of $250 million every year on Strengthening Medicare. 


JOURNALIST: But surely the federal government should have some responsibility with this, is the federal government dragging its heels? 


BUTLER: Pharmacists have stepped up over the last couple of years, they've made a wonderful contribution to the safety and the health of the Australian community by being such an important part, particularly of the vaccine programme, but a whole range of other elements of the pandemic response. I've been talking about this issue with representatives of health, nursing and other groups at the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce. I obviously talk very regularly with the pharmacist associations including the Guild and the Pharmacists Society. We are stepping through these issues carefully. But my starting point is that all Australia's health care professionals, the hundreds of thousands of hardworking, well trained healthcare professionals should be working as close to the top of their scope of practice as possible. 


JOURNALIST: But why should the states have to lead the way on this and not the federal government? 


BUTLER: We've been working in the short five months since the election on ways to improve the delivery of healthcare after nine years of cuts and neglect, particularly to Medicare, we'll have more to say about that after the new year. 


JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns for patient safety on the New South Wales government's plan as it stands?  


BUTLER: All we’ve seen is a media announcement from the Premier, I’m not sure you could call that a plan. They have not chosen to talk to us about that. I know there are a range of other pilots going on around Australia to expand the scope of practice of pharmacists and other health care professionals, for that matter. You see those programmes operating at the state levels for nurse practitioners and registered nurses as well. These are all good things. I encourage states to continue to do that work. I'm talking with healthcare groups about that on the national level, as well, because Australians deserve the best possible care they can get, from the investment the community makes in training hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. 


BUTLER: Given the concerns about the health care system run across the country, are you worried about the relationship between the government and the federal government given they haven't discussed this plan with you? 


BUTLER: No, we've got a very, very good open relationship. I know the Premier and the Prime Minister talk very often about issues of common interest. I have a terrific relationship with the New South Wales Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard. We talk very regularly. And as a group of state and territory and Commonwealth Health Ministers we talk on an almost fortnightly basis to talk through those issues that are affecting all Australians: the enormous pressure on our healthcare system that flows from two and a half years of a once in a century pandemic. Thanks, everyone. 

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