Thursday, 23 June 2022
Department of Health
The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland is the statutory regulator of pharmacists and pharmacies in Ireland and maintains Registers in this regard in the interest of delivering on its vision and mandate to assure trust in pharmacy services.
I would not have access to the information relating to the number of community pharmacists employed in the State. Notwithstanding that I can confirm that there are currently 6856 names entered in the Register of Pharmacists with 4410 of these individuals declaring their area of practice as “Community”. A further 1215 do not declare this information and the reminder have specified academic, hospital, industry, regulatory and other.
409. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to work with the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to increase third level places for pharmacists; if he agrees that there is a shortage of community pharmacists; the action that he is taking to address such shortages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33340/22]
Thank you for raising this issue. This is a complex problem with many contributing factors and multiple stakeholders. Workforce challenges are being experienced in other sectors nationally, and in the pharmacy sector in a range of other countries. However, robust data for Ireland is needed to be able to determine the current landscape, assess future health system needs and understand existing sectoral challenges now and into the future.
I understand that currently there are reports of a current acute workforce issue, particularly in relation to community pharmacy. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) has been liaising with stakeholders, including the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), on efforts being taken within the sector to understand and address the issue. ?In February 2022, PSI met with a number of superintendent pharmacists and the IPU. The PSI also circulated a survey on behalf of the IPU to all registrants to support in efforts in understanding and addressing the issue in the short term, the results of which are pending. ?I understand that the IPU is seeking to establish a stakeholder group to examine the issue, that will seek sectoral participation and will include officials from my department.?
The PSI is undertaking a project, due to run across 2022-’23, ‘Emerging Risks to the Future Pharmacy Workforce’. In 2022, this project is set to “assess emerging risks to the continued availability of a professional pharmacy workforce within community and hospital pharmacy in Ireland”.
The European Commission is also currently supporting a health and social care workforce planning strategy and action plan, a health and social care workforce planning model, health and social care workforce projections and gap analysis project. Support includes recommendations for health and social care workforce reforms.
There are currently three Schools of Pharmacy within universities in Ireland – TCD, RCSI and UCC who each provide an accredited five-year fully integrated Master’s degree programme in pharmacy (MPharm). On successful completion of the five-year programme, graduates are then eligible to apply to the PSI for registration through the National Route of registration. As part of their Emerging Risks to the Future Pharmacy Workforce project, PSI have committed to share any relevant data emerging as part of that project with relevant Government departments, along with relevant first-time registration data with the relevant Government departments, particularly if trends are identified that indicate a future deficit.
It will be on the basis of gathering and analysing up-to-date, robust and relevant data, that recommendations can be proposed to address Ireland’s needs for a pharmacist workforce in the future, as Ireland’s healthcare system evolves, and in the context of Sláintecare implementation. I will engage as necessary with government colleagues in addressing relevant issues as they arise.
410. To ask the Minister for Health if he supports the inclusion of community pharmacists on the critical skills occupations list; if he has engaged with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33341/22]
Ireland’s employment permits system is managed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. It is designed to attract highly skilled workers from outside the EEA to Ireland, to meet skills demand in the economy where those skills can’t be accessed through the resident labour force, in the short to medium term. This objective must be balanced by the need to ensure that there are no suitably qualified Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work and that the shortage is a genuine one. The system is vacancy led and managed through the operation of the Critical Skills and Ineligible Occupations Lists which determine employments that are either in high demand or are ineligible for an employment permit where it is evidenced that there is more than sufficient availability of those skills in the domestic and EEA labour market.
Pharmacists wishing to practice in Ireland must be registered with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI – the Pharmacy Regulator). The number of registered pharmacists on the Register of Pharmacists held and maintained by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), the pharmacy regulator has continued to grow steadily, with an average increase of 187 registrants each year over the past five years. 6846 pharmacists are currently registered with the PSI, under established processes based in Irish and EU law.
Although not having a direct role in the recruitment of pharmacist the PSI are aware of reports from stakeholders, of an increasing risk to the continued availability of a pharmacist workforce, with the concern being that the issue may be exacerbated into the future. This has a knock-on impact on pharmacist vacancies, and potentially on continuity and consistency of service. As a result, the PSI is undertaking a project, due to run across 2022-’23, ‘Emerging Risks to the Future Pharmacy Workforce’. In 2022, this project is set to “assess emerging risks to the continued availability of a professional pharmacy workforce within community and hospital pharmacy in Ireland”.
The Deputy will be pleased to hear that I support the inclusion of pharmacists on the critical skills occupations list and that Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, has recently announced changes made by Statutory Instrument to the employment permits system which includes adding the occupation of Pharmacist to the Critical Skills Occupations List. This means that Pharmacists are now eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit.