Community Pharmacy

New survey shows public want pharmacists to play expanded role in healthcare

Irish people are increasingly more likely to attend their pharmacist before they go to their GP and want their pharmacist to be able to do more for them, according to new research launched today.

The results of a survey, commissioned by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) and carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes, will be launched today at an IPU event on the future of pharmacy. The survey shows that:

·         70% will talk to the pharmacist first, ahead of visiting their GP;

·         94% are in favour of their pharmacist being able to prescribe some medicines for minor ailments;

·         90% would like to see the pharmacy offering services such as blood pressure monitoring and cholesterol testing; and

·         94% trust the professional advice they receive from the pharmacist.

IPU Secretary General, Darragh O’Loughlin, says the untapped potential in the pharmacy sector creates “a tremendous opportunity for the healthcare system as a whole, but Government must take action”.

“The services we can provide in Irish pharmacies are, due to many years of government inaction, not as complete as they should be. When we compare the successful pharmacy sectors of Canada, New Zealand and the UK, we see a range of other initiatives that could be rolled out in Ireland. These include provision of oral contraceptives and increasing the range of vaccines available in our pharmacies. Last month the Minister for Health committed to the IPU that he would work with us to realise some of these improvements. We welcomed this commitment and are eager to get started on the promised engagements.” 

There are around 78 million visits to Irish pharmacies each year, and roughly 1.6 million adults have been in a pharmacy in the last week, accounting for 44% of the population. This jumps to 81% who have visited in the last month. Nearly half of the adult population lives within one kilometre of a pharmacy (47%), and 87% live within five kilometres of a pharmacy. Nearly nine in ten (88%) people say the pharmacist is available at a time that suits them, while only half (52%) say the same of GPs.

Speaking about the research, Larry Ryan of B&A says “It is clear that Irish consumers feel very positive about the service they receive in the pharmacy sector. 98% of us rate the professional service we receive as very good or quite good. Very few industries could boast similar satisfaction levels.”

Mr O’Loughlin says more needs to be done by Government to support the pharmacy sector in future, in order to improve levels of patient care within the health system: “Delivering care at the lowest level of complexity is the stated aim of Sláintecare. Within the pharmacy sector, we have almost 1,900 pharmacies nationwide ready and waiting to contribute to this. We hope that in the upcoming discussions the Minister shares our ambition and puts flesh on the bones of his recent commitments, because empowering pharmacists to practise to full scope will be a win-win for everyone.”

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