27 September 2022: The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), which represents Ireland’s 1,900 community pharmacies, has welcomed patient friendly measures announced in Budget 2023. However, the IPU has said with the extension of free GP care to over 400,000 children it is more important than ever to properly resource and utilise the pharmacy sector.
Speaking following the announcement of Budget 2023, IPU President, Dermot Twomey said:
“We welcome the extension of the recently introduced free contraception scheme to include women of up to 30 years of age. However, cost is not the only barrier to contraception and there must be an equal focus on enhancing ease of access. Women should have the choice to access oral contraception (the pill) direct from their pharmacy without prescription. This is safely practised in many other countries and failure to do so in Ireland makes it more difficult for women and creates needless work for GPs.
“Today’s announcement that free GP care will be extended to all children under the age of eight will be welcome news for families. However, this will only increase the demand on over-stretched GPs further and add to the long waiting lists that are developing in many towns nationwide. The pharmacy sector should be better utilised to alleviate pressures on GPs. The IPU has consistently called for the introduction of a Minor Ailment Scheme which has proven to work extremely well in a number of other countries.”
“The removal of VAT on products used in Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) will help encourage more smokers to avail of help to quit. This could be further enhanced by allowing pharmacies to provide NRT to medical card patients without prior consultation with a GP.
“Pharmacists will, however, be extremely disappointed that the government continues to underfund pharmacists for the work and expertise involved in dispensing medication to medical card patients. The sector urgently needs reform of the fees it receives and had been seeking a modest increase in the dispensing fee to €6.50 per item. Failure to adequately fund the sector will heap challenges upon many pharmacies which could result in closures or reduced hours.”
Mr Twomey concluded by urging the government to engage with the pharmacy sector to maximise its potential: “The pharmacy sector is accessed more than any other part of Ireland’s healthcare system. It functions exceptionally well, and we are calling loudly for more responsibility so we can do more for patients. However, this will require commitment from government to the pharmacy sector and a willingness to address the growing underfunding which is greatly impacting the sector.”