Pharmacists Dispute

February 6th, 2008 - Pat Breen

QUESTION NO: 182

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Health and Children (Ms. Harney (Dublin Mid-West))

by Deputy Pat Breen

for WRITTEN ANSWER on 06/02/2008

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 6th February, 2008.

* To ask the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 31 October 2007, the position regarding the pharmacists dispute with the Health Service Executive; if progress has been made on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Pat Breen

REPLY.

At a meeting between the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) under Mr Bill Shipsey SC on 5 December 2007, a process was proposed to the IPU to (i) address their immediate concerns regarding the alleged impact of the proposed revised wholesaler arrangements on GMS-dependent pharmacies and (ii) to provide a basis upon which discussions on a new substantive contract could commence. The IPU was not prepared to accept this proposal from the HSE and, accordingly, no further discussions have taken place under Mr Shipsey’s auspices since then. Notwithstanding the failure to reach agreement, the HSE has offered a draft interim contract to pharmacists to address their main concerns regarding the alleged impact of the proposed revised wholesaler arrangements on GMS-dependent pharmacies. I am informed that the HSE intends to implement the deferred revised wholesaler arrangements from 1st March 2008. The Executive also recently commenced discussions with the IPU and other parties on the development of a new substantive pharmacy contract. The details of the draft interim contract, and the HSE’s other intentions in this regard, were set out in a letter to individual community pharmacists on 2nd January 2008.

In the light of the legal position previously outlined in the House, and after further consultation with the Attorney General, the other relevant Departments and the HSE on the best way of progressing the development of a new contract with pharmacists in compliance with competition law, my Department is working to develop appropriate arrangements for the development of contracts and for the setting of the fees payable in respect of contracts with private sector undertakings for the provision of health services on behalf of the HSE. These arrangements may include the establishment of an independent body which would consider the nature of the service to be provided and all other relevant factors in each case and make recommendations to the Government in relation to the fees it considers appropriate. The composition of such a body, its terms of reference and the timescale for its work are amongst the matters to be considered in this regard. In line with the legal advice received, the HSE may enter into discussions with community pharmacists on the non-fee aspects of their contract, with a view to developing a new substantive pharmacy contract.