Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) meeting in Macroom today, Thursday. Photo: Madison Agardi

Pharmacists to discuss community care

The availability of contraception in pharmacies, the need for a chief pharmaceutical officer and how to address a growing shortage of pharmacists will be discussed today as more than 250 pharmacists meet in Cork.

Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) meeting in Macroom today, Thursday, will see Cork pharmacists delve into what healthcare pharmacies can provide in communities.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, IPU President Dermot Twomey said: “Community pharmacy is the most accessible part of the healthcare system. Each year there are 78 million visits to community pharmacy outlets, or 19 visits per annum per man, woman, and child in the State. Community pharmacy is at the heart of practically every community with over half of the Irish population living within one kilometre of their local pharmacy.”

He added: “A key priority for the IPU is providing women in Cork with convenient access to oral contraception without prescription direct from a pharmacy. This is already available to women in the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and other countries, Ireland should not be an outlier.”

Mr Twomey said the essential role that pharmacies play in delivering healthcare in the community has been ably demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic and in particular over the course of a series of national lockdowns.

He also said a poll, released by Ipsos MRBI last year, found that local pharmacists were the most trusted professional group in the country with a trust rating of 98%.

He continued: “However, pharmacies are under increasing pressure to sustain the level of service locally. A growing shortage of pharmacists and increasing challenges attracting and retaining suitably qualified people within the profession is fast becoming a major concern.

“We need government action to increase the number of education places in Ireland for pharmacists. We also need to examine the regulations the profession operates under to remove time consuming red tape that provides no benefit to patients.”

Mr Twomey said with adequate resources including additional pharmacists, this sector is ripe for expansion, and we all want to be empowered to do more for our patients.

Pharmacists are also campaigning for the introduction of a range of new clinical services in community pharmacies. This includes the roll out of a national community pharmacy-based triage programme including a minor ailment scheme, use of emergency medicines, and minor injuries.

Mr Twomey concluded: “With over 1,900 pharmacies nationwide the pharmacy sector is at the heart of providing healthcare in every single community. Pharmacies provide a wide range of services from general advice on healthcare and medicines, to treating minor ailments, providing winter flu vaccinations and conducting a variety of health screenings. Your pharmacist is always happy to help and provide whatever advice you may require.”