Irish pharmacists would welcome a bigger role for pharmacies in delivering care at the lowest level of complexity.
After a study commissioned by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) showed that the public wants pharmacists to play an expanded role in healthcare, the union’s Secretary General was pleased by the results.
"Within the pharmacy sector, we have almost 1,900 pharmacies nationwide ready and waiting to contribute to this," said Darragh O’Loughlin.
The study had shown 70pc of the public would talk to their pharmacist before contacting a GP. Furthermore, over 90pc were in favour of pharmacies offering additional medical services and being able to prescribe some medicine.
"Pharmacists are ready, willing and able to do more to support patients on a day to day basis. Pharmacists already provide many of the proposed services on a daily basis and are qualified to do so," Mr O’Loughlin said.
"Pharmacists are ideally positioned to expand the services they offer, taking pressure off GPs, and ensuring the public has access to professional, trustworthy and accessible healthcare in the community."
Many pharmacies around the country have already started to implement these new services over the last couple of years.
Marrons Pharmacy in Clane, Co Kildare is offering a wide margin of services like vaccinations, diabetes screenings or urinalysis.
Supervising Pharmacist Jonathon Morrissey knows why many people would contact their pharmacist first for minor ailments.
"It is the easy accessibility. We have long opening hours every day. You don’t need an appointment to see your pharmacist. Additionally, there are also no fees associated initially," he said.
He acknowledges that the new responsibilities lead to more pressure on pharmacists and their work, but thinks that the Irish pharmacies are ready for this task.
"Sure, it means a bit more pressure for us and less for the GPs. But there are often more pharmacists in an area than GPs. So we can spread the workload that would usually lie on the shoulders of very few GPs.
"In some areas extra training would be needed but in most cases pharmacists come out of university with this advanced knowledge to apply all these extra services," he said.
Mr Morrissey described the new mind-set for many local pharmacies in Ireland.
"We are trying hard to offer as much as possible to the people in our community. They know what they get from us: Highly trained professionals and good service."