Guild membership fees for thousands of pharmacies are set to drop this year — by more than 20% in some cases.
However, some pharmacists who own more than one pharmacy may face a fee hike, while small pharmacies say the changes don’t go far enough.
The reason for the reduced fees for 2017/18 is the axing of the annual proprietor fee, meaning the fee will be based on the premises fee alone, which has increased slightly.
More than 3000 (78%) of the Guild’s 4000 member pharmacies are expected to enjoy reduced fees as a result of the change.
According to a Guild spokesperson, the changes are being introduced to better reflect the move towards larger pharmacies with multiple owners.
Currently, the Guild collects one premises fee per pharmacy, but it collects multiple proprietor fees if the pharmacy has more than one owner.
This means pharmacists who co-own one pharmacy can pay more than a single pharmacist who owns more than one pharmacy.
“This was to simplify [membership] so a pharmacy attracts the fee and it doesn’t matter if that pharmacy has one owner or ten owners,” the spokesperson says.
The Guild believes the simpler fee structure will encourage new members, giving it a stronger base to progress workplace relations, advocacy and “pharmacy transformation”.
Small Pharmacy Group (SPG) spokesperson Katie Stott says the new fee structure has received a mixed response from members.
While some welcomed an overall cost reduction, small pharmacies — around one-third of the sector — will still be subsidising their larger competitors, she says.
Larger pharmacies with multiple partners are able to share the cost of the premises fee while sole owners bear the full cost.
Ms Stott says the SPG is continuing to advocate for a tiered fee structure based on pharmacy size, or a fee reduction for pharmacies with an annual turnover under $1.5 million or under 35,000 scripts a year.
The SPG presented their proposed fee structure to the national council last November and has since had a number of “positive discussions” with the Guild.
“We believe that this issue is being taken seriously and hopeful that it will be addressed in a timely manner.”
Ms Stott says tailoring fees is important as the Guild moves negotiations for the 7th Community Pharmacy Agreement.
“[Fee equity] will result in higher Guild membership and benefit all Guild pharmacies regardless of size.”