Seanad debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

10:30 am

Photo of Sharon KeoganSharon Keogan (Independent)

I want to raise the issue of the ongoing shortage of pharmacists in Ireland. This was raised in both Houses last May. The situation certainly has not resolved itself. In fact just last month the Irish Pharmacy Union conducted a survey that showed the shortage is reaching crisis levels.These shortages will lead to some pharmacies reducing their hours and services and in some case temporary closures may be necessary. More than half of the pharmacies surveyed had at least one open vacancy for a pharmacist in the past year and more than one third indicated that these vacancies had remained for more than six months and up to one year. The report shows that to stay open, at least 20% of the pharmacies are relying on pharmacist locums. Of the pharmacists surveyed, 42% were first registered in the UK. This high percentage of pharmacists qualifying outside of Ireland serves to highlight the glaring lack of places for students to study pharmacy here in Ireland.

The president of the Irish Pharmacists Union, IPU, Dermot Twomey, stated that the profession is being strangled by red tape and bureaucracy and that much of the pharmacist’s day is now spent filling out paperwork which provides no benefit to the patient. This is unfortunately leading to the exodus of well-educated community pharmacists. Were the HSE to address this it would make the profession more attractive and boost retention.

Certain improvements to community healthcare in a pharmacy setting such as the introduction of an electronic prescription handling system have been in the works since 2013. According to Mr. Twomey the only changes that seem to come quickly are those that involve more red tape. Will the Minister for Health and the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science get together to thrash out a plan to get more pharmacists into training at third level and see what can be done to make the career more attractive to people who want to fill those places? Our pharmacists are a vital cog in the wheel of healthcare in this country. The minor ailment scheme is still on the back burner due to the inaction of the Minister in rolling it out. We need to support our pharmacists better.

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