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Pharmacists could hold key to improving nation’s health

September 25, 2017

Pharmacists could play a greater role in the Irish healthcare system that would help improve the nation’s health and deliver cost savings, according to Niall Byrne, Registrar of the PSI, the pharmacy regulator. Mr Byrne says that the PSI’s recently published report “Future Pharmacy Practice in Ireland – meeting patient needs” identified numerous opportunities where pharmacists could contribute more to addressing some of the significant challenges facing Irish healthcare. He was speaking as pharmacists across the world marked World Pharmacy Day, a global initiative to promote the numerous contributions the pharmacy profession makes to public health.

Ireland’s healthcare system faces a number of challenges including a rapidly aging population and increasing demands on its services. The number of people over 65 years is expected to grow by about 3% per year over the next 10-15 years with 40% of the population forecasted to have at least one chronic illness by 2020. At present, Irish people make an estimated two million visits per year to the pharmacist, making them the most frequently accessed healthcare professional.

Acknowledging the potential expanded role for pharmacists that was highlighted in the PSI’s report, Mr Byrne said that pharmacists’ offered expertise in the area of medicines as well as an extensive country-wide network that reaches into every town and village. “People’s healthcare needs are increasing and becoming more complex. Medicines are the most common intervention in resolving people’s health issues so the potential risks to the safe and effective use of medicine are likely to increase. At the same time, national health policies continue to focus on resolving the public’s healthcare needs as close to their homes as possible. Pharmacists are uniquely placed to play a greater role that could assist in patient care in a safe and cost effective manner.”

The PSI report contained a number of key recommendations around the evolution of pharmacists’ role in health promotion and their greater involvement in managing chronic diseases in the community as well as within the hospital environment, as part of multi-disciplinary teams. The report also predicts pharmacists working increasingly outside of pharmacies, providing medicines expertise in GP surgeries, nursing homes and in tandem with home care, as the delivery of healthcare services changes.

“Future Pharmacy Practice in Ireland” was based on extensive consultation with stakeholders including members of the public, healthcare professionals, other regulators and policy-makers. Dr Norman Morrow, former Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety chaired the special steering group appointed by the PSI to oversee the project. Full details of the report are available at www.psi.ie.

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