Pharmacists want expanded role to free up GPs for urgent cases


Irish pharmacists are calling for a broader role as frontline service providers which would include the prescribing of medicines, the management of chronic disease patients, flu vaccinations and health screening.

Representative body, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), wants Ireland to follow countries like Canada and Scotland where the introduction of expanded pharmacy services has freed up GPs to spend their time with more urgent cases.

Speakers from Canada and Scotland will outline the experience at a major healthcare seminar taking place at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in Dublin this morning.

Darragh O’Loughlin, secretary general of the IPU, said: “The aim of the Government’s Healthy Ireland strategy is to make people healthier and to keep them healthier for longer.

“There is a move to introduce free GP care to the under-6s this year and ultimately to everybody, but the medical organisations representing the GPs say they are already over-stretched.”

He said other countries, when faced with a similar shortage of doctors at primary care level, extended the role of the pharmacist to improve access to healthcare services.

“In Canada the pharmacist can monitor patients who are on long-term medication for chronic conditions and increase or reduce their medicine if necessary after checking their blood pressure, glucose levels, etc. There are care plans in place and the doctor works closely with the pharmacist.

“This is the sort of thing we believe should be introduced in Ireland where the maximum prescription is six months and medical card holders have to go to their GP for prescriptions for over-the-counter products like headache tablets, athlete’s foot cream, digestion remedies and even head lice treatments which is wasting time the GP should be spending on treating people with more serious conditions.”

Iris Evans, former minister for health for the province of Alberta, Canada, will address the seminar on the difference made by pharmacists to the Canadian healthcare system. She said there had been an 84 per cent increase in people getting the influenza vaccination from pharmacists in the past year.

By Michelle McDonagh. Published in The Irish Times, Health+Family, Tuesday, January 21, 2014.