Pharmacists should be allowed provide a greater range of services to spare many patients an expensive visit to the GP.
The call was made at a conference in Dublin today which was told that pharmacists in Canada and Scotland are already being given an expanded role.
Already the introduction of the flu vaccination service and loosening of restrictions on the way women can access the morning after pill have shown that pharmacists here can prove an accessible, convenient and cost-effective,” said Rory O’ Donnell, President of the Irish Pharmacy Union which organised the conference.
But overall Ireland has been “laggard “in unleashing the power of pharmacists in the provision of health services.
“Internationally the argument for expanding the role of pharmacists is settled and the question now is only on what more services they can do,” he said.
Research in the UK “suggests that greater use of pharmacists there could reduce the number of visits to GPs by 51 million a year.
“The same approach in Ireland could make a significant impact on reducing pressures on GPs and A&E visits.”
There are over 20 million visits to GPs in Ireland each year. The bulk of these will require a GP but a significant percentage doesn’t and could be dealt with by a pharmacist.”
Advantages of using pharmacists would:
• Improve access to professional healthcare;
• Reduce overall Exchequer spending on healthcare;
• Ease some of the existing burden on GP services and free up crucial resources; and
• Improve health outcomes for patients and the public.
He said:“There is clear evidence internationally to show that these additional pharmacy-based services have led to considerable improvements in patients’ health outcomes and considerable savings to healthcare budgets.
“The focus of the system must be towards the creation of a patient-centred health service delivered at the lowest level of complexity.”