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A pharmacy in Dublin city centre Sam Boal/
Healthcare Reform

Health officials intend to allow pharmacies assess and treat patients with minor ailments

The proposal has been welcomed by the President of the Irish Pharmacy Union.

THE GOVERNMENT ARE examining proposals that would allow for pharmacists to assess and treat minor illnesses.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the proposed scheme would allow people to bypass attending their GP to get a prescription, allowing pharmacists to directly provide medication for certain illnesses.

In a response to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor, Donnelly said his department was currently examining proposals to establish the scheme.

“The intention is to enable eligible patients to attend their local community pharmacist for assessment and treatment for a number of identified ailments rather than initially having to attend the GP to obtain a prescription,” Donnelly said.

“Work is progressing and the Department has begun discussions with the HSE on the range of conditions to be included in such a scheme.

“There will be a need for clinical oversight on those conditions to be included in such a scheme, including the development of appropriate protocols.”

There are currently no details available on what illnesses will be covered under the proposed scheme and it’s understood that the project is still at an early stage.

A six-month long pilot of the scheme was trialled in 2o16, with just 121 consultations taking place across four areas. The scheme was only available to medical card holders at the time.

The trial scheme only operated for five conditions, which were: dry eye, dry skin, scabies, threadworms and vaginal thrush.

Asked about the proposed scheme, President of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) Dermot Twomey said that it was a “no brainer” and would help take pressure off of general practitioners.

“Ultimately what you’re trying to do is free up space within general practice,” Twomey said, adding that this could have a knock on effect in reducing admissions to emergency departments.

Twomey said that pharmacies had previously shown their capability through the administration of Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic.

Asked if pharmacies had the capacity to deal with patients, Twomey told The Journal that they did and that pharmacists would be keen to do more consultations.

“The reality is that a huge number of pharmacists, particularly young pharmacists, are leaving the industry,” Twomey said.

“It would be hugely welcomed by community pharmacies as long as the system isn’t overly bureaucratic.

Ultimately it is about patient care at the end of the day.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that the intention was to divert GP resources towards more serious illnesses.

“Currently, General Medical Services patients must attend their GP to obtain a prescription to access Over The Counter (OTC) medicinal products to treat minor ailments. This may divert GP resources from treating more serious conditions,” the spokesperson said.

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