Patients refused tests to ease hospital pressure
A leading Galway pharmacist has called for more responsibilities to be given to local chemists, in order to stop patients being refused basic screening tests.
It has emerged that, due to increasing pressure on hospitals across the country, GPs are now being urged to reduce the number of screening samples sent in for examination. This has lead to many patients, particularly those in possession of a medical card, being discouraged from getting regular blood tests, among other procedures.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Irish Pharmacists Union (IPU) conference in Galway, outgoing president Darragh O’Loughlin told the Galway Independent that it was essential that local pharmacies be enabled to carry out basic procedures in order to ease pressure on the hospital system while maintaining patient care standards.
“There is real pressure in the hospital system and they don’t have the capacity to do all the screening and the blood tests that they have been doing previously, so our argument is that those screening should be done out in primary care.
“The equipment to do them has come down very considerably in price in that number of years and, rather than having these things done in hospitals, which is not convenient for anybody, as it adds delay and expense, it should be done in primary care.”
The topic is among many that will be on the table at this week’s IPU conference and Mr O’Loughlin said that a general reticence to remove drugs from ‘prescription only’ status is having an impact on both patients and GPs.
He highlighted the success of the roll-out of the flu vaccine and the ‘morning after’ contraceptive pill as examples of how this can done.
“For some reason, Ireland appears to be a very conservative country when it comes to making changes in the delivery of services. In the UK and the US, they are very proactive about doing the research and deciding which medicines that are currently on prescription could be made safely available over the counter.
“There’s no evidence that any harm has been caused by making these medicines more available as long as there is a pharmacist supplied and they can get the relevant information.”
And Mr O’Loughlin added that the need for medical card patients to obtain a prescription from their doctor to avail of all non-prescription medicine free of charge was another anomaly that must be addressed.
“It’s a ridiculous situation where a medical card patient has to get a prescription from their doctor for something over the counter like a bottle of Gaviscon. For some people it may mean taking an afternoon off work and, in addition, you are increasing the pressure on local GP services also. These are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves, how can we make it easier for the patient?”