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The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has called on the government to provide a clear timetable for the restoration of funding to pharmacists following repeated cuts under the FEMPI legislation.

These cuts came under strong criticism from the IPU President, Daragh Connolly, at their annual conference on Friday (27th April), who stated that of the 1900 community pharmacies treating patients throughout the country, 89 per cent  bear the scars of FEMPI, which removed €2.2 billion in revenue from the sector between 2009 and 2017.

He highlighted the risk to the sustainability of community pharmacies, particularly rural pharmacies and ones based in disadvantaged areas, reliant on State payments for as much as two-thirds of turnover, as average turnover per pharmacy from State schemes is down by 33 per cent.

Mr Connolly said that there was a growing inequality in the treatment of community pharmacists that must be addressed. “FEMPI cuts are already being reversed elsewhere, with pay restored for public servants. Commitments have also been made to renegotiate contracts with other healthcare professionals including GPs. The inequality in treatment this creates is leading to growing anger and frustration among pharmacists.

“It is almost two years since the Government’s own FEMPI review recommended fees to pharmacists be re-examined,” said Mr Connolly referring to the 2016 Annual Review of FEMPI legislation. “That review recommended that payments to pharmacists be linked to Government health priorities and the expansion of services. We have enthusiastically embraced this opportunity and delivered on every commitment asked of us. In spite of this we have been left out in the cold with no sign as to when these disproportionate cuts will be alleviated”.

The current professional dispensing fees were described as “uneconomical”, due to the ageing population, and the resulting increase in the number of medical cards, causing more medications to be dispensed under State schemes than ever before but without appropriate compensation for the time and expertise required in dispensing medication and advice to patients.

“It is now time that FEMPI cuts are reversed and the important role of community pharmacists is recognised and supported to ensure equity, fairness, and the sustainability of pharmacies in communities across the country”, concluded Mr Connolly.