Shortage of Community Pharmacists a Real Concern

  • Local community pharmacy network could be threatened

6 May 2017: At the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) National Pharmacy Conference, being held in Croke Park this weekend, the shortage of qualified young pharmacists who wish to practise in community pharmacy was highlighted as a major threat to the future of the sector.

Speaking at the Conference, Caitriona O’ Riordan, a pharmacist based in Cork and a member of the IPU Executive Committee, said, ”There is evidence that young qualified pharmacists are either not entering community pharmacy or are leaving the profession, with many deciding to pursue careers in other areas. The reasons for this are varied but we know that one major off-putting factor is excessive and increasing levels of administration and bureaucracy, coupled with a perception that their professional skills are underutilised in comparison to their colleagues in other countries.”

In the UK, the role of the pharmacist extends far beyond the scope allowed in Ireland, with pharmacists allowed to prescribe for minor ailments. In Canada, the scope of practice has been extended to include monitoring patients with chronic illnesses, and renewing and adjusting their prescriptions.

“Community practice is no longer attractive to young pharmacy graduates, who are frustrated that their knowledge and skills are not properly utilised by a system that fails to recognise them. They seek more rewarding careers in other settings. This problem will, if not addressed, have serious ramifications, not just for community pharmacy, but for the wider community,” Ms O’Riordan said.

To make the sector more attractive, and professionally rewarding, it is essential that we allow pharmacists to expand their scope of services and ensure that they can practise their chosen profession rather than act as outsourced bureaucrats.

“The last thing we want is to see, due to a lack of qualified staff, is our smaller villages and towns losing their local pharmacy, particularly when we see that happening already with other healthcare professionals including GPs and community nurses,” concluded Ms O’Riordan.