PHARMACISTS in Ireland could soon be prescribing medicines under new proposals being examined by government.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced an Expert Taskforce which has been established to support the expansion of pharmacist roles across the country.
It will examine “how pharmacists can be enabled to operate at the top of their licence for the benefit of patients and the wider health service”, the Department for Health has explained.
Initially the taskforce will consider options to enable pharmacists to extend prescriptions for a range of medicines and medical conditions.
It will also advise on a “comprehensive approach to facilitate pharmacist prescribing”, the department confirmed this week, which will include “empowering pharmacists to assess and prescribe for common minor ailments within a community pharmacy setting and to use their expertise to operate as independent prescribers”.
Announcing the plans, Minister Donnelly said these initiatives would make it easier and faster for patients to get the medication they need.
“Pharmacists are highly trained, valued healthcare professionals who already use their extensive training and expertise in medicines to help people every day,” he said.
“They were tremendous partners during the recent COVID-19 pandemic and made a hugely positive contribution to our vaccination programme.”
He added: “Empowering pharmacists to use their expertise to assess and treat certain ailments will help patients get the care they need sooner and closer to home – but the benefits go much further.
“It can help reduce demand on hospitals, walk-in clinics and GP practices.”
The Taskforce will be chaired by Dr Pat O’Mahony, and includes representatives from the HSE, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Irish College of General Practitioners, as well as academic and training bodies.
“It is a privilege to be appointed Chair of this Expert Taskforce,” Dr O’Mahny said.
“I look forward to working with the other Taskforce colleagues, appointed by the Minister, all of whom bring extensive expertise to our work and shared ambition.”
He added: “Pharmacists are highly trusted healthcare professionals, and in line with best practice on the safe and appropriate use of medicines, and the principles of Slaintecare, it is timely we now look urgently at how certain medicines can be made available directly to patients through the extensive network of community pharmacies.”
The Taskforce must provide its first recommendations to the Minister by October 2023.