Pharmacists angry that cuts remain while others have pay restored

IPU conference told of severe risk to the sustainability of community pharmacies

Speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Pharmacy Union, its president Dara Connolly said ‘it is essential that pharmacists are compensated properly for their time and expertise’  . File photograph: Colm Mahady

Speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Pharmacy Union, its president Dara Connolly said ‘it is essential that pharmacists are compensated properly for their time and expertise’ . File photograph: Colm Mahady

 

Pharmacists have said they are growing increasingly angry and frustrated that the Government is putting in place pay restoration for public servants while there has been no progress in reversing the cuts they have experienced over recent years,

The annual conference of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) on Friday heard calls on the Government to provide a clear timetable for the restoration of the estimated €2billion in cuts applied to the pharmacy sector under financial emergency legislation (Fempi).

IPU president Daragh Connolly said pharmacists were growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of Government engagement on the issue.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Connolly said, “There are currently over 1,900 community pharmacies treating patients throughout the country. The majority (89 percent ) of these remain family-owned businesses, each of whom bear the scars of Fempi, which removed €2.2 billion in revenue from the sector between 2009 and 2017.”

He said with community pharmacies reliant on State payments “for as much as two-thirds of turnover, and average turnover per pharmacy from State schemes down 33 per cent, there is a severe risk to the sustainability of many community pharmacies”.

“This is particularly acute in rural pharmacies and within disadvantaged areas; however this is a risk that the Government seems content to ignore.”

Mr Connolly said there was growing inequality in the treatment of community pharmacists that must be addressed.

He said Fempi cuts were already being reversed elsewhere, with pay restored for public servants. Commitments had also been made by the Government to renegotiate contracts with other healthcare professionals including GPs. He said the “ inequality in treatment this creates is leading to growing anger and frustration among pharmacists”.

“It is almost two years since the Government’s own Fempi review recommended fees to pharmacists be re-examined.

“That review recommended that payments to pharmacists be linked to Government health priorities and the expansion of services. We have enthusiastically embraced this opportunity and delivered on every commitment asked of us. In spite of this we have been left out in the cold with no sign as to when these disproportionate cuts will be alleviated.”

Mr Connolly said the ageing population and increase in the number of medical cards meant that more medications were being dispensed under State schemes than ever before.

“It is essential that pharmacists are compensated properly for their time and expertise in dispensing medication and providing essential advice to patients. The current professional dispensing fees are uneconomical and do not cover the costs associated with providing this vital service.”