Nov 22, 2019
Pharmacy cuts - A message from the IPU
Following strenuous communication with the Minister for Health and his office, the IPU has secured a meeting with the Minister for Health on Thursday 5 December regarding the proposed cuts to pharmacy funding. At the meeting, we will be demanding that the Minister row back on the unreasonable, unfair and unjustifiable cuts and instead immediately keep his previous clear commitments to start negotiations on a new pharmacy contract and investment in pharmacy services.
To date, the IPU has been extremely active in canvassing support from political representatives and has met with opposition spokespeople for Health. We have also been actively targeting Government politicians including Cabinet Ministers, TDs and Senators and have provided support to individual members who have made contact with them.
The IPU is strongly encouraging all pharmacists to make contact with their local public representatives, especially from Government parties, to highlight their concern at the betrayal of previous clear commitments and ask them to raise the issue with their parliamentary parties. Many pharmacists have already been in touch with TDs and the feedback from Leinster House is that this is starting to make an impact. To amplify the campaign, we ask that each pharmacist get at least five other pharmacists in your locality to do likewise, which they can do by either picking up the phone to their local representatives or by sending them an email.
Unreasonable, unfair and unjustifiable cuts to the community pharmacy sector are being proposed by Minister for Health – Stop Cuts Now!
In October, the Department of Health initiated a consultation process under the Public Pay Act with the IPU. Following an initial meeting, the Department wrote to the IPU on 25 October outlining the following proposed structural changes to pharmacy fees, which would apply from 01 January 2020.
These proposed changes are:
- Replace current phased dispensing fee per item for each phase other than the first dispensing with a monthly patient care fee of €45.00
- Reduce the number of items paid at €5.00 from 1,667 to 1,000 per month.
- Abolish the High Tech patient care fee of €31.02 payable in the months in which no dispensing takes place.
Cuts Not Fair or Reasonable
Cuts will hit pharmacies serving rural, isolated and disadvantaged communities hardest
These cuts will impact disproportionately on pharmacies which dispense lower than average numbers of prescriptions, which will irrevocably damage the pharmacies serving rural, isolated or disadvantaged communities.
The proposed change to the fee bands is markedly regressive, having the greatest impact on pharmacies dispensing 2,500-3,000 items per month – it would result in a crippling reduction in dispensing fee income of up to 9%.
These pharmacies cannot survive any further cut in their incomes, never mind one of this magnitude: with average margins as low as 4% this cut will put their survival in jeopardy.
Broken Government promises
As of 1 January 2020, the rates imposed under FEMPI no longer apply: Minister for Health repeatedly led the IPU to believe that FEMPI would then be unwound.
The Minister is reneging on previous commitments without any explanation, reason or justification.
At IPU National Pharmacy Conference in May 2019, Minister Harris committed to starting discussions on a new pharmacy contract, on moving beyond FEMPI to a ‘higher terrain’ and on a program of investment in pharmacy services. This commitment is being betrayed.
Cuts make a mockery of Sláintecare
The Sláintecare Action Plan for 2019 sets out the first steps in a ten-year plan to deliver health and social care services with the intent that the focus is on providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time in a way that is efficient, effective and sustainable, namely in the community
The Government has committed to a decisive shift towards primary care, but there are simply not enough GPs to deliver this: The government must, therefore, utilise the network of 1,870 Irish community pharmacies.
A modest investment in pharmacy-based services would free up crucial capacity in GP surgeries and achieve cost-efficient treatment across the continuum of care.
Further cuts to the pharmacy are not reasonable or rational; don’t tie in with Sláintecare; will affect rural, isolated and disadvantaged communities more; and are totally at odds with Government commitments
Why are these brutal and unjustifiable cuts being proposed? Stop the cuts and start talks now!