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Minister for Health announces public consultation on expansion of pharmacy

By Irish Pharmacist - 04th Jun 2024

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly recently launched a public consultation to help inform the expansion of the role of pharmacists.

Views are being sought on:

  • Expansion of the role of pharmacists.
  • Expansion of pharmacy services offered to the public.
  • Interaction of pharmacy services with the healthcare service.

The consultation follows the Minister’s establishment last July of an Expert Taskforce to support the expansion of the role of pharmacists in Ireland. The Taskforce is currently examining the potential expansion of pharmacy services under a Common Conditions Scheme. This would allow pharmacists to prescribe medications for certain uncomplicated common conditions.

Via an online survey, this public consultation seeks the views and opinions of Irish registered medical practitioners, health and social care professionals, organisations and members of the public. The Pharmacy Taskforce said it hopes to get a wider understanding of professional and public views on expanding the role of pharmacists working in hospital pharmacy, community pharmacy and additional areas such as GP practices.

The Public Consultation survey can be accessed at https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/1e57bc12-905c-f5a4-1393-619081d163d5.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) welcomed the announcement and said this will likely reveal the widespread support for further pharmacy expansion, which will have a tremendous benefit for Ireland’s healthcare system. However, the Union also warned that pharmacies are under extreme pressure due to underfunding of core patient services and administrative burdens. Addressing these cannot be delayed any further, it stressed.

Welcoming the consultation process, President of the IPU Mr Tom Murray said: “There has been a steady momentum towards expanding the role of pharmacies in Ireland, particularly in the past 12 months. The opening of this consultation is another welcome step. The clear view of the profession and the patients we speak to is that there is a fervent desire for pharmacies to provide more services.

“There are enormous potential benefits from an expansion of pharmacy services. This should include the introduction of a minor ailments scheme addressing common clinical conditions, independent prescribing for certain conditions, making oral contraception available from pharmacies without prescription. This would make treatment more efficient for patients and the health service.”

However, Mr Murray warned that this consultation process cannot be allowed to slow efforts to address the deficits in funding pharmacies. “Ireland’s pharmacies provide an essential service to the State by dispensing medicines through various community drug schemes. Despite the significant increase in costs and the ever-increasing administrative burdens, the fees for providing these services have been frozen for 16 years. We have reached a point where pharmacies are losing money by providing services to the State, this is unsustainable. It must be the absolute priority when examining pharmacy services.”

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