An ever-increasing and wholly unnecessary administrative burden is detracting from patient care and leading to a shortage of pharmacists, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has warned. Speaking at a recent event in Dublin jointly hosted by the IPU and JPA Brenson Lawlor, IPU President Dermot Twomey said many pharmacists are becoming burned-out and are ultimately leaving the profession as a result of this red tape.
Over 100 members of the pharmacy profession attended ‘Community Pharmacy 2023 – The Way Forward’ in Dublin recently. The event heard from a range of speakers about how best to expand the pharmacy sector and also the importance of ensuring wellbeing and work-life balance for those working in community pharmacy.
One of the biggest barriers to work-life balance and job satisfaction is excessive administration, Mr Twomey warned. “Pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals; we are not administrators. We have an expertise in medications and are a critical part of our country’s healthcare system. More and more patients are seeing pharmacy as the first port of call for care in the community. Unfortunately, at the same time, health authorities seem content to task this essential frontline profession with endless form-filling and bureaucracy.” Jason Bradshaw from JPA Brenson Lawlor, leading financial advisors to the sector, stated: “A career in community pharmacy can be very rewarding but the correct work/ life balance is a key element in retaining and attracting community pharmacists. We know pharmacists are leaving the sector, and this has been linked to the significant administrative burden, thus creating a shortage of community pharmacists.”
According to Mr Twomey: “While community pharmacy practice requires diligent attention to detail, much of the required red tape does nothing for patient care. It is a huge frustration that we are forced to complete multiple box-ticking exercises that do nothing to advance clinical safety and which impact on the time available to provide the valuable clinical care for which we are trained.”
Mr Twomey was critical of the HSE for forcing much of the red tape onto pharmacies. “Among the biggest administration burdens is form-filling relating to work pharmacists do on behalf of the State, such as dispensing medicines to medical card-holders. The administration required to get paid for the work we do for the HSE, such as through community drug schemes and the PCRS, is completely unnecessary and adds significantly to the cost of dispensing medicines — a double-whammy.”
He said that there were some obvious solutions available that could be implemented, including a national ePrescribing system, reduced administration associated with community drug schemes, better visibility of patient level eligibility for certain medications where restrictions apply, and implementation of a Serious Shortage Protocol to support pharmacists in therapeutically substituting medicines in the case of a shortage.
The IPU is now calling on authorities to commit to combatting the problem. “We want to invite relevant parties such as the HSE, HPRA and Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland to work with us to review and reduce the level of unnecessary bureaucracy imposed on community pharmacists.”
Concluding, Mr Twomey said: “While we jump through hoops, patients are left waiting. What is required is a clear commitment to reduce red tape, which will empower the sector to deliver the revolution in community care we have been calling for for many years. Allowing the problem to continue will exacerbate the shortage of pharmacists, increase the levels of stress for those working in the sector, and damage community care.