Pharmacy sector ‘fast approaching crisis point’

Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) president and owner of Cloyne Pharmacy in East Cork, Dermot Twomey welcomed the addition of pharmacists to the list of occupations that qualify for expedited work permits. However, he said that it was only a first step in what was becoming a very acute issue.
Pharmacy sector ‘fast approaching crisis point’

Irish Pharmacy Union president and Cloyne pharmacist Dermot Twomey is worried about the future of the industry here. Picture: Denis Scannell

A CORK pharmacist has said that the sector is “fast approaching a crisis point” and has called for a concerted action plan to address the growing shortage of community pharmacists.

Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) president and owner of Cloyne Pharmacy in East Cork, Dermot Twomey welcomed the addition of pharmacists to the list of occupations that qualify for expedited work permits. However, he said that it was only a first step in what was becoming a very acute issue.

Recently, Damien English, junior minister for business, employment and retail, announced the addition of pharmacists to the critical skills occupation list, allowing for faster access to work permits.

Mr Twomey said it was an important official recognition that community pharmacists are in short supply but, while the change is very welcome, “it is not designed to address the root causes of the shortage”.

“The majority of community pharmacists surveyed by the IPU now believe there is an insufficient number of pharmacists in our healthcare system to meet patient needs,” he said.

“This is a dire situation which could develop and has the potential to create profound difficulties for patients, and immediate action needs to be taken to avoid this.”

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Twomey said the situation was “fast approaching a crisis point”, with many pharmacists leaving the sector to work in other areas.

“The model that’s currently there isn’t sustainable and it needs a number of angles to be tackled in order for it to be sorted, which are training more pharmacists, reducing red-tape bureaucracy, making the role more attractive, empowering or ensuring that if the State wants pharmacy-led programmes such as vaccinations that the pharmacy can retain two or more pharmacists in order to divide the services,” he said.

“It does need immediate action.

“It’s about trying to attract and retain pharmacists in the community pharmacy and then it’s a question of how many pharmacists do you need to provide services?

“For example, if you’re talking the Covid vaccination programme or flu vaccination programme, that’s quite labour intensive. It’s a very worthwhile thing to be doing but, for some pharmacies, you would need two or maybe three pharmacists to be able to provide the regular service plus the additional service.

“I think really the issue is that pharmacies need more pharmacists to provide the services that we want to.

“We also need to attract more pharmacists into community pharmacy and we also need to try to retain those that are there so they don’t move out of community pharmacy, maybe into other spheres.

“Equally, we need to train more pharmacists and need to try to attract pharmacists from other countries as well.”

Mr Twomey warned that these shortages will lead to pharmacies reducing their hours, reducing their services and, in some cases, temporary closures.

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