Pharmacists seek to treat minor ailments without GP’s prescription

Proposal comes as doctors object to plan to stop paying overtime to hospital interns

Irish Pharmacy Union: its proposal would “alleviate pressure on overworked GPs”. Photograph: Bloomberg

Irish Pharmacy Union: its proposal would “alleviate pressure on overworked GPs”. Photograph: Bloomberg

 

Community pharmacists are urging the Government to introduce a minor-ailment scheme that would allow patients with medical cards to be treated for common illnesses in pharmacies, without the need for a doctor’s prescription.

The Irish Pharmacy Union said such a move, which would apply to conditions such as dry eye, dry skin, scabies, threadworm infection and vaginal thrush, would “alleviate pressure on overworked GPs, who could then see more seriously ill patients who may otherwise find themselves in hospital emergency departments”. Similar schemes already operate successfully in other jurisdictions, including the UK, and could help reduce pressure on the rest of the healthcare system, according to the organisation’s secretary general, Darragh O’Loughlin.

End to overtime payments

The proposal came as the Irish Medical Organisation was due to hold talks on Monday with the HSE over reports that interns at Connolly Hospital, in Blanchardstown in Dublin, would not be paid overtime from next week. The IMO, which represents doctors, said a memo from senior hospital management stated that interns would not be paid for work done before 8am or after 5pm, “despite the fact interns are routinely expected to work outside these hours”.

The RCSI Hospitals group, to which Connolly Hospital belongs, said at the weekend that all nonconsultant hospital doctors receive a salary based on their contract, including overtime when it is incurred and rostered. “Where unrostered overtime is incurred this requires authorisation by the designated consultant, and where this occurs the necessary payment will be paid.”

The IMO’s vice-president, Dr Peadar Gilligan, said on Sunday that management were out of touch. “Patient care must be the priority, and whilst management may be counting the wage bill, doctors caring for patients should not be forced to down tools as the clock strikes 5pm. This is the real world on a busy hospital ward when interns and other NCHDs” – nonconsultant hospital doctors – “are routinely expected to complete whatever tasks they are doing whether their formal hours are ending or not. And, of course, if that requires them to stay working longer, they must be paid for that work.”

Hospital bed capacity review

Separately, with hospitals expected to come under pressure again this week, Fianna Fáil criticised Minister for Health Simon Harris for failing to put in place a funding plan for additional hospital beds.

The Irish Times reported on Saturday that the Government’s forthcoming review of hospital capacity would propose an additional 2,000-2,500 acute beds even if health reforms, including greater investment in community services, were implemented. Without the reforms, the review suggested, up to 9,000 additional beds could be needed.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on public expenditure, Dara Calleary, urged the Minister to outline a funding plan to meet the review’s recommendations. “It’s shocking that Minister Harris didn’t have the foresight to recognise that additional funding is needed to deliver more beds in Irish hospitals. The Minister knew that the bed-capacity review would be published imminently, and he would have been aware that the broad recommendations contained in it would have been for additional beds to be provided.

“Despite this the Minister failed to secure extra funding for hospital beds in Budget 2018. He has not outlined what discussions he had, if any, with the Department of Finance regarding additional funding for hospital beds.”