New minor ailments scheme to reduce GP visits
Patients with medical cards may be treated directly by their pharmacist rather than GP for minor ailments such as skin conditions under a new scheme examined by the Department of Health.
The Health Research Board has now been commissioned by the department to produce a report on how this scheme will work and give its findings in the autumn.
Under the minor ailments scheme, people with medical cards could go directly to their pharmacist for free non-prescription medicines to treat conditions such as mild to moderate coldsores, eczema, migraines, nappy rash and fungal skin or nail infections.
It means they can avoid a visit to their GP where they have to get a prescription for the same medicine.
"The evidence review will help the department to decide whether this policy is worth pursuing," said a spokesman for Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
"If the evidence review is positive about the benefits of a minor ailment scheme, the department will devise a pilot scheme to test how it would operate, and evaluate the pilot in terms of cost and volumes, before being implemented nationally," he confirmed.
The scheme is already in place in Northern Ireland and Scotland but GPs have previously warned it needs to looked at with caution, saying that patients should ideally consult with their doctor.
They are also wary of letting pharmacists take any of their business, having already seen them allowed to carry out flu vaccinations in recent years.
The Irish Pharmacy Union has argued in favour of the minor ailments scheme in a submission to the department.
It said that research shows that one in seven GP consultations and one in 12 emergency department attendances could have been dealt with by a visit to a pharmacy.
Meanwhile, a unique new service that allows patients to get access to urgent prescriptions in as little as 20 minutes is launched today by the online medical provider DrEd.com.
Up to now, users of the online medical services received their ordered prescriptions by post, which could take anything from two to five days.
With 'Pharmacy Collect', urgent prescriptions can now be delivered straight to the patient's chosen pharmacy within an hour of an online consultation, with medication ready for collection soon after.
A spokeswoman said: "Prescriptions can be dispensed nationwide from over 1,500 pharmacies."