Urgent progress needed on resourcing healthcare in the community

  • 1,800 Pharmacies available to provide more services
  • Ireland lags behind UK, Canada & New Zealand
  • Government needs to show initiative

6 February 2019: The Government faces increasing and often competing demands from across the healthcare industry. In the face of these pressures the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has urged the Government to remain focussed on their primary care objectives and to deliver new and efficient ways to treat patients in their communities.

There are over 1,800 community pharmacies nationwide and the range of services they provide could be significantly enhanced. However, according to the IPU, the Government has consistently failed to progress a series of common-sense proposals, creating missed opportunities for patients and the system as whole.

Darragh O’Loughlin, Secretary General of the IPU said “Community Pharmacy is the most accessible part of our healthcare system, with four out of five members of the public visiting a pharmacy at least once a month. It is clear that our patients want to avail of more services from the convenience of their local pharmacy, but a lack of action from Government is consistently preventing us from doing so. Crucially, there are many people currently being treated by GPs, who could be treated in pharmacies. GP practices are already under severe pressure, with many reportedly unable to take on new patients. With GPs overwhelmed, it makes absolute sense to expand the scope of services provided by community pharmacists, which will reduce the burden on this overstretched part of the healthcare system.”

Services which the IPU recommend rolling out to Irish Pharmacies include:

  • Minor Ailment Scheme: This scheme would enable medical card patients receive treatment for common illnesses such as hay fever, migraine or skin conditions free of charge direct from their local pharmacy. Currently medical card patients are required to visit a GP and obtain a prescription for treatments ordinarily available over the counter. Implementing this scheme prevent the requirement for up to 950,000 GP consultations each year.
  • New Medicine Service: A structured pharmacy-led monitoring service for patients on newly prescribed medications for long term illnesses including COPD and Type 2 Diabetes. A pilot in Ireland has already shown this improves ‘optimal adherence’ to medications and could bring savings to the health system.
  • Chronic Disease Management: Envisaged as a collaborative initiative between GPs, Pharmacists and other healthcare providers this scheme would see pharmacists would monitor important health indicators and refer any concerns to GPs. A pharmacy-based blood pressure management service could for example save the state €1.36bn over 30 years.

“Irish pharmacists are ready, willing and waiting to enhance the levels of care they provide,” said Darragh O’Loughlin. “Unfortunately, time and again, despite all the successful pilots and studies, community pharmacists’ positive intentions and desire to help patients is left to gather dust on a shelf.”

“There is a stark contrast with the range of services that can be provided in pharmacies in other countries such as the UK, Canada and New Zealand, in comparison to here in Ireland. If the Government is serious about delivering primary care in the community they can no longer afford to ignore these proposals, which have the potential to ease so many of the bottlenecks which currently frustrate patients and frontline workers in the health system.”

Darragh O’Loughlin concluded that, “The time is right to optimise our delivery of primary care by providing appropriate convenient, accessible and cost-effective healthcare through pharmacies in communities throughout the country. Patients cannot afford to wait.”