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There is overwhelming public support for plans to allow pharmacists to prescribe medicines for minor ailments, according to research by Behaviour & Attitudes (B & A). Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has recently appointed an expert taskforce to make recommendations to support the expansion of pharmacist roles, including independent prescribing, measures which the research indicates would be welcomed by the vast majority of patients.

The Pharmacy Index 2023 was researched by B&A on behalf of the Irish Pharmacy Union. It found that almost half of the adult population (48% or nearly 1.9 million adults) now visit the pharmacy during a typical week. With 98% of people stating they value the advice pharmacists provide, it also found that nine in 10 adults agree that the role of pharmacists is becoming increasingly important.

Among the key findings was close to universal support for community pharmacies increasing the range of services they provide.

This includes:

  • 96% in favour of pharmacists being able to prescribe treatments for minor ailments such as back pain, migraine and indigestion;
  • 94% in favour of pharmacists being able to repeat certain prescriptions without recourse to a GP; and
  • 96% in favour of pharmacists offering a medicine service to improve adherence to new medicines.

With the IPU calling for contraception to be available directly from a pharmacist on foot of a structured consultation, 86% of adults in Ireland favour pharmacists being able to offer contraceptive care. Following the vital role pharmacists played in the Covid vaccination campaign, 78% of people would now welcome the availability of childhood vaccines in pharmacies.

Commenting on the findings, Kathy Maher, Chair of the IPU’s Pharmacy Contractors, said: “There is huge potential for pharmacies to expand the range of healthcare services they provide. As the new expert taskforce commences its work it is heartening to see that patients across the country want to avail of these new services.

“Supporting the sector to provide enhanced healthcare services would deliver a revolution in community care.

“The pharmacy profession wants to do more for its patients, and it is clear patients would support this. However, achieving this potential will also require addressing the chronic underfunding of pharmacy services. When a pharmacy dispenses a medication on behalf of the state today, they are receiving a lower payment than they did in 2009 but facing much higher costs. This is creating huge pressure on our pharmacy network, which must be addressed before expansions can be realised.”

Concluding, Ms Maher said: “We look forward to engaging with the expert taskforce and hope that the recommendations lead to the most ambitious possible expansion of services.”