Thanks to pressure from the concerted effort of the IPU and pharmacists all over the country, the Government has agreed not to proceed with new cuts to community pharmacies, which were due to come into effect in the New Year.
The proposed cutbacks would have removed €45 million from pharmacies, on top of cuts made during the recession under FEMPI. There is little doubt these cuts would have spelled disaster for many pharmacies across the country.
Representatives of the Irish Pharmacy Union met with the Minister for Health Simon Harris yesterday, and have confirmed the Minister has rowed back on plans for new budget cuts from 1st January, and has instead agreed that this issue will be discussed at part of negotiations on a new pharmacy contract.
Speaking after the meeting, IPU Secretary General Darragh O’Loughlin said, “after a decade of decline in payments for delivering services on behalf of the State, pharmacy businesses and their staff are under unsustainable pressure. While this reprieve is welcome, a significant increase in resources is urgently needed to meet the ever-increasing costs of providing the existing service, to ensure the viability of community pharmacy and to allow pharmacists to deliver on their commitment to ongoing service development and reform, which will have significant benefit for patients and the public.”
Mr O’Loughlin continued, “When the proposed cuts were announced in October, Ireland’s 2,300 community pharmacists were left deeply shocked and concerned and warned that these unfair and unjustifiable cuts would hit rural, disadvantaged and isolated pharmacies hardest. Any funding cuts would also go completely against the Government’s Sláintecare strategy, which aims to keep health services in the local community.
“We are pleased that Minister Harris kept the promise he made the National Pharmacy Conference in May this year, when he acknowledged the previous cuts to pharmacists’ incomes that had been imposed during the financial crisis and the resulting financial pain felt by pharmacists, and stated the Government’s intention to unwind those cuts. He also committed to starting talks on a new pharmacy contract.
“New contract talks will also include discussions on an expansion of healthcare services in pharmacy. As we continue into the winter months and a rising trolley count, this will deliver real benefits for patients and will take pressure off the rest of the health system and in particular overstretched Accident and Emergency Departments and GP clinics. We look forward to working with Minister Harris and his officials in the New Year, and ensuring Irish patients are able to fully benefit from the professional expertise of their local pharmacist.”