Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions (92)

Seán Fleming


92. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health his vision for pharmacies in the health service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30429/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Pharmacists play an important role in the delivery of healthcare in Ireland.

Over the past two years, I have broadened the range of services provided by community pharmacists. They now provide the seasonal flu vaccination to patients, including adults in “at risk” groups. Pharmacists have recently commenced emergency hormonal contraception services. They provide advice on healthy eating, support with smoking cessation and importantly, advice to help patients manage their medications. In addition 65 community pharmacies participate in the community pharmacy needle exchange programme.

Implementation of the Future Health: A Strategic Framework for Reform of the Health Service 2012-2015 document, which was published in late 2012, is a priority for Government. Future Health sets out, at a high level, the main healthcare reforms, which will be introduced in the coming years to reshape the health system for the introduction of universal health insurance in 2016. Delivering on the Government’s goals in primary care will impact on primary care health professionals, including community pharmacists.

As part of implementation of Future Health, pharmacists will be expected to identify and contribute to implementing evidence-based and cost-effective solutions to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the healthcare system, by addressing key medication issues such as medicines wastage, inappropriate usage of medicines, supporting and improving chronic disease management and patient adherence to medication.

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, which was commenced on 19 June 2013, community pharmacists will play an important role in facilitating generic substitution. This legislation gives effect to the commitment in the Programme for Government that reference pricing and greater use of generics would be introduced to reduce the State’s drugs bill and the cost to individuals of their medicines. Through generic substitution pharmacists work with patients to promote the cost-effective use of medicines in order to achieve a sustainable health system.

Hospital pharmacy practice has significantly developed in recent years in order to meet the need for a clinical pharmacy service within hospitals for patients and to support clinical teams. The increasing complexity of new medicines and therapy regimes over the last 20 years in particular has meant that it has been necessary for hospital pharmacists to develop specialist clinical roles such as oncology, antimicrobial resistance (SARI), cardiovascular, neurology, respiratory and medication safety. Clinical pharmacy services within hospitals ensure the safe, appropriate, effective and cost-effective use of medicines for patients within secondary care. At the boundaries between primary and secondary care, there is scope for hospital pharmacists to make a significant contribution to promoting seamless care, and best use of medicines.

Pharmacists have been key contributors to the HSE Clinical Care Programmes, particularly in the management of chronic illnesses (such as diabetes, stroke, heart failure, COPD and asthma). Pharmacists working within the pharmaceutical industry also play a crucial role in maintaining the link between healthcare delivery and the Government’s policy approach to the forging of strong partnerships with industry.

Pharmacy education and training and continuing professional development for pharmacists is crucial in ensuring pharmacists are competent to take on new roles within healthcare delivery. A new five-year integrated Masters level pharmacy degree across the three schools of pharmacy in Ireland is proposed in line with best international practice and it will ensure newly qualified pharmacists are clinically-focussed and have the competencies, as part of the delivery of integrated healthcare, to support patients in managing increasingly complex medicines therapy. Continuing Professional Development for pharmacists will progress the development of pharmacy practice in line with international best practice and evolving healthcare needs.

International and national evidence demonstrates the significant impact pharmacists have in health gain for patients.