Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is setting up an Expert Taskforce to support the expansion of the role of pharmacists in Ireland.

The Taskforce will examine how pharmacists can be enabled to operate at the top of their licence for the benefit of patients and the wider health service.

It will initially consider options to enable pharmacists to extend prescriptions for a range of medicines and medical conditions where appropriate.

The Taskforce will also advise on a comprehensive approach to facilitate pharmacist prescribing.

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This will include, but not be limited to, empowering pharmacists to assess and prescribe for common minor ailments within a community pharmacy setting and to use their expertise to operate as independent prescribers.

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Minister Donnelly said these initiatives would make it easier and faster for patients to get the medication they need.

Minister Donnelly said:

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Pharmacists are highly trained, valued healthcare professionals who already use their extensive training and expertise in medicines to help people every day.

They were tremendous partners during the recent Covid pandemic and made a hugely positive contribution to our vaccination programme. 

Empowering pharmacists to use their expertise to assess and treat certain ailments will help patients get the care they need sooner and closer to home – but the benefits go much further. It can help reduce demand on hospitals, walk-in clinics and GP practices.

The Taskforce will be chaired by Dr Pat O’Mahony, and includes representatives from the HSE, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Irish College of General Practitioners, as well as academic/training bodies.

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The Taskforce has been asked to provide its first recommendations to the Minister as early as October 2023.

Taskforce Chair Dr. Pat O Mahony said:

It is a privilege to be appointed Chair of this Expert Taskforce.

I look forward to working with the other Taskforce colleagues, appointed by the Minister, all of whom bring extensive expertise to our work and shared ambition.

Pharmacists are highly trusted healthcare professionals, and in line with best practice on the safe and appropriate use of medicines, and the principles of Slaintecare, it is timely we now look urgently at how certain medicines can be made available directly to patients through the extensive network of community pharmacies.

Taskforce Chair:

Dr Pat O’Mahony, formerly CEO of the HPRA and a former Deputy Secretary General at the Department of Health, Pat was also Chairman of the Management Board of the European Medicines Agency. Pat is currently Chair of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and of the Irish Medicines Verification Organisation (IMVO), and the former CEO of Clinical Research Development Ireland (CRDI).

Taskforce Members:

Prof. Michael Barry is a consultant Clinical Pharmacologist and Head of the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics at the University of Dublin, Trinity College. He is the Clinical Director of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics.

Pat Healy is the National Director of Clinical Programme Implementation and Professional Development in the HSE.

Keith Hourihane is a Community Pharmacist and an adjunct Clinical Lecturer in UCC School of Pharmacy.

Joanne Kissane is a pharmacist and the Registrar and Chief Officer of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, The Pharmacy Regulator.

Kate Mulvenna is a pharmacist and formerly the Chief Pharmacist for the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in the HSE.

Prof. Caitriona O’Driscoll is Professor and Chair of Pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy, University College Cork.

Louisa Power is a pharmacist and a Medication Safety Specialist with the National Quality and Patient Safety Directorate of the HSE.

Dr Diarmuid Quinlan is a GP and Medical Director of the Irish College of General Practitioners.

Prof. Judith Strawbridge is Deputy Head (Education) of the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

Anne-Marie Seymour is the Principal Officer in the Medicines, Controlled Drugs and Pharmacy Legislation Unit of the Department of Health.

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