A CORK pharmacist has called for a “more proactive approach” to be taken in relation to pharmaceutical care.
President of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) Dermot Twomey, who established Cloyne Pharmacy in 1997, suggested an agreed national strategy for pharmaceutical care be developed, which would be owned by the Minister for Health and driven by the appointment of a chief pharmaceutical officer within the Department.
Speaking to the Joint Committee on Health on Wednesday, Mr Twomey described the discussion on the potential of and the challenges facing community pharmacy as both “timely and relevant”.
He said community pharmacy provides a ready-to-go health infrastructure that the IPU believes can be utilised much better, with a pharmacy in almost every town or village across the country and more than 85% of the population residing within 5km of one.
He said that community pharmacy is “a highly regulated profession” with a commitment to patient safety and quality, most apparent during the pandemic with pharmacists delivering 1.3 million vaccinations to date.
“Structures are in place to ensure that the standards of professional competence and ethical conduct are clearly outlined, communicated to patients, and independently inspected on a regular basis.
“Recent research shows that many people view their pharmacist as the first port of call for their healthcare needs and community pharmacists are voted consistently by the public as one of their most trusted professions.
“We are indeed committed to the Sláintecare ethos of ensuring the right care is delivered at the right place at the right time for all patients and we believe there’s tremendous potential for community pharmacy to realise this ambition.
“We want to utilise our skillsets and we want to facilitate pharmacists to work the full scope of practice.”
Mr Twomey proposed a Minor Ailment Scheme which would be available to both private and public patients whereby patients with minor self-limiting conditions would no longer need to make a GP appointment and instead would consult with their local community pharmacy and receive an assessment of their symptoms, followed by either a combination of advice and/or medication supply or referral to other services.
He said the scheme has significant potential to free up capacity in primary care, which he said is “under huge pressure”.
Mr Twomey said that, based on information gathered through studies, this scheme could “potentially free up to one million GP appointments”.
“This would be a clear example of an opportunity to radically reimagine the delivery of timely care within the community and to deliver cost-effective, safe, and desired health outcomes.”
He said the IPU said it is committed to driving this scheme but said the sector must be adequately reimbursed and invested, calling on the Minister to review pharmacists’ fees before the deadline of his commitment to review the fees in June.