Irish Pharmacy Union says ‘unjust’ cuts to fees will hit rural pharmacies

Union claims proposed fee reductions will cost pharmacies an average €12,000 a year

A spokeswoman for the Minister of Health said talks on a new contract with pharmacists would open next year in the same way as negotiations took place with GPs earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images

A spokeswoman for the Minister of Health said talks on a new contract with pharmacists would open next year in the same way as negotiations took place with GPs earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Rural pharmacies may have to close as a result of cuts to their fees proposed by the Department of Health, the profession has claimed,.

The Irish Pharmacy Union says it is “deeply shocked and concerned” after the department “unexpectedly” proposed severe cuts to its members’ fees from next January.

The cuts to fees paid for the standard dispensing of items, high-tech drug care and for phased dispensing of drugs would reduce funding in the sector by over €50 million, it claims.

The proposed fee reductions would cost pharmacies an average €12,000 a year, according to the IPU.

At present pharmacies are paid a dispensing fee of €5 per item for the first 1,667 items a month, with lower fees applicable to subsequent items. Under the changes this fee would apply to only the first 1,000 items, and a fee of €3.50 would apply to the remaining 667 items.

“These unfair and unjustifiable cuts will hit rural, disadvantaged and isolated pharmacies hardest, and go completely against the Government’s Sláintecare strategy which aims to keep health services in the local community,” says the IPU.

Accusing the Minister for Health of a U-turn, it says Simon Harris had repeatedly given the profession assurances that cuts in their income imposed during the economic downturn would be “unwound” or reversed. Instead his department had recently revealed proposals for cuts that would “drastically reduce” the ability of pharmacies to provide services.

Appalled

“Pharmacists are shocked and appalled that, contrary to commitments made by the Minister, his department is now proposing these unjust and unfair cuts on top of crisis-era cuts that remain in place,” says IPU president Daragh Connolly.

“Community pharmacists are now the only profession not to have had fee restoration, and instead now further cuts are being proposed.”

A spokeswoman for the Minister said talks on a new contract with pharmacists would open next year in the same way as negotiations took place with GPs earlier this year.

“The Minister will be seeking to put in place a contractual agreement that is fit for purpose in a healthcare system that is increasingly seeking to tilt the balance of care towards a strengthened primary care system.”

A meeting between Mr Harris and the IPU, which represents 2,300 pharmacies, is due to take place later this week.