Irish Pharmacy Union proposals in pre-Budget 2018 submission

  • Pharmacists can help Government achieve greater value and efficiency in healthcare

7 September 2017: The Government could get greater value and efficiency from the health budget if it allowed pharmacists to deliver an expanded range of health services. This message has come from the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) in a pre-Budget submission, which details how the role of the pharmacist could be expanded for the benefit of patients and the taxpayer. With over 1.5 million visits to a pharmacy by the public every week, pharmacists are already the most accessed healthcare professional.

“In England, Scotland and Canada, for example, where demand for GP services exceeds the available capacity, the unique skills and expertise of pharmacists are being used to enhance access to healthcare,” the submission states.

The IPU says that pharmacists here have the requisite expertise, skill-set and accessibility to introduce services like health screening, a minor ailment scheme, new medicine service or chronic disease management, “all of which would assist in delivering on the Government’s programme of improving the health and wellbeing of people living in Ireland”.

A Minor Ailment Scheme would enable medical card patients to receive treatment for common illnesses, free of charge, directly from their local community pharmacy in a timely manner and without the need for a visit to the GP. “Community pharmacists deal routinely with minor ailments as part of their normal practice giving advice to patients on how to treat self-limiting conditions and distinguishing between minor illness and major disease, thereby improving the quality of life for patients and playing a major role in keeping people with common ailments out of the GP surgery and preventing unnecessary use of A&E services,” the document states.

Last November, the IPU, together with the HSE, completed a three-month Pharmacy Minor Ailment Scheme pilot in four towns around the country, which went extremely well and the IPU is now recommending that this should be rolled out nationally.

Another proposed IPU initiative is a national New Medicine Service to support people who have been newly prescribed a medicine for certain long-term conditions or therapies (such as asthma, COPD, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, antiplatelet/anticoagulant therapy, statin therapy and chronic pain), in order to achieve improved medicines adherence and increased effective medicine taking.

A study published recently by the Universities of Manchester, Nottingham and University College London reported that the New Medicine Service in England, which was set up in 2011, had resulted in savings of over £75 million in the first five years and will lead to savings of over half a billion – £517.6 million – in the longer term.

Noting that the provision of the flu vaccine in pharmacies in recent years had significantly improved access and promoted uptake, and that the Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar (when Minister for Health) had legislated for pharmacists to provide vaccination for shingles and pneumococcal disease, the pre-Budget submission urges that reimbursement arrangements be put in place immediately for pharmacies to provide this vaccine to encourage its uptake by those patients who would benefit most.

The document also points out that in most states of America, in addition to the flu, pharmacists can offer vaccination of meningococcal disease, tetanus and hepatitis A and B, as well as travel vaccines. “We would like to see our pharmacy vaccination services extended similarly to include a similarly wide range of vaccines”, it adds.

The IPU also wants a greater role for pharmacists in supporting self-care and for an increase in the number of medicines available without prescription, in line with countries such as the UK and New Zealand.

“This will enable people to access treatments for minor and self-limiting ailments allowing GPs to focus on more complicated illnesses. Pharmacists would utilise their clinical knowledge to help patients choose the appropriate medication to deal with minor ailments. Medicines that could be reclassified include newer anti-allergy medicines, like fexofenadine and a wider range of analgesics, many of which are already available without prescription in the UK and elsewhere.”


Further information: Jim Curran, Director of Communications & Strategy, IPU, Tel: 086 264 0 469


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