A pilot scheme that will see medical card holders treated for minor ailments at a pharmacy instead of a GP office is to be rolled out in March.
The aim of the scheme is to relieve GPs of some of the workload associated with the General Medical Services Scheme (GMS). The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) said it is estimated that minor ailments represent 18% of a GPs workload in the UK, costing the NHS some €2.5bn a year.
At present, GMS patients present at a GP surgery to obtain a prescription, even when the appropriate treatment is non-prescription medication.
The proposed Minor Ailment Scheme will enable medical card patients to receive treatment for minor ailments free of charge at their local pharmacy.
The scheme was proposed by the IPU in a pre-budget submission to the Government last autumn.
It said illnesses covered by the scheme would include allergic rhinitis, athlete’s foot, cold sores, constipation, diarrhoea, fungal skin or nail infections, emergency contraception, psoriasis, scabies, and other conditions that would require non-prescription based treatment.
“The Royal College of General Practitioners and the College of Emergency Medicine in the UK have estimated that one in seven GP consultations and one in 12 A&E attendances could have been dealt with by a visit to a pharmacy,” the IPU said in its submission.
“Meanwhile, the Irish College of General Practitioners has warned that Ireland faces a growing GP manpower crisis with new medical graduates emigrating and established GPs retiring and the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine has said that our hospital Emergency Departments are suffering staff shortages due to difficulties recruiting qualified doctors,” the union said.
The IPU said the scheme will be cost-neutral to the State, as the costs involved in dispensing medications will remain the same.
The pharmacists involved in each consultation would be responsible for the record of supply on the patient’s medication record.
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