This article was first published in the Irish Pharmacy News, December 2011 edition.
The pharmacy sector has undergone considerable change in recent years, starting with the enactment of the Pharmacy Act in 2007. A common complaint is that pharmacists have come under increased pressure as a result of these regulatory changes and that greater administrative burdens have been imposed, for example in processing their claims under the various community drugs schemes operated by the State. With reductions in staff forced on them as a result of cuts in their remuneration, many pharmacists are also finding it difficult to find the time to devote to their patients and to the development of new services.
The noticeable increase in regulation is partly due to the fact that, as a profession, pharmacy had been grossly under-regulated for so long and is now in catch-up. However, it would appear that what some pharmacists perceive as a "regulatory overload" may just be the groundwork for the Government's plan to expand the role of primary care in this country.
Pharmacists have for many years called for greater recognition and utilisation of their knowledge and skills in the delivery of an accessible, efficient and cost-effective healthcare system for this country. The Pharmacy Ireland 2020 Working Group, in its interim report published in April 2008, identified several ways in which community pharmacists could enhance the services they provide to patients and deliver cost-effective solutions to problems within the health system. Among the measures envisaged are –
The involvement of pharmacists in the carrying out of regular medication reviews for all patients. A greater role for pharmacists – including the power to prescribe – in the management and treatment of minor ailments. The provision of health screening. The administration of vaccination programmes. In October 2011 the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2011 were introduced, permitting suitably trained pharmacists to supply and administer the flu vaccine for the first time in Ireland. Other jurisdictions where pharmacists are involved in the delivery of immunisation programmes have seen increased uptake rates due to the greater accessibility of the service and it will be interesting to see whether this trend is replicated here.
Pharmacist-prescribing and the introduction of a Minor Ailments Scheme are other proposals on the agenda with a view to achieving a...