Speeches

Address by Minister Tim O´Malley TD to the Irish Pharmaceutical Union President´s Dinner

Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen;

As Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, and also as a past President of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, it gives me great pleasure to be able to address you this evening. I would like to take this opportunity to thank your President, Richard Collis, for inviting me.

Role of Community Pharmacy

I am aware that the past year has been one which has challenged the profession. The question of where community pharmacy is going and how its role will develop has been to the fore of many of your thoughts. The Primary Care Strategy, the revocation of the 1996 Pharmacy Regulations and the setting up of the Pharmacy Review Group have all contributed to the profession taking a look at itself and the direction in which it sees itself heading.

Much of what I want to say tonight about the Primary Care Strategy and pharmacy, I have already spoken of before. However, I think it merits repeating.

Pharmacy extends far beyond dispensing drugs. For many people, the pharmacy is their first contact with the health service, and the judgment and advice of pharmacists are highly regarded. Customers discuss their concerns with their pharmacist, and trust the advice they receive.

Health is also about more than dealing with illness. People need opportunities to experience good levels of health and well being. Information enables people to make positive choices about their health care. Pharmacists increasingly operate as the main suppliers of the information crucial to this process, on a formal and an informal basis. The pharmacist plays a key role in promoting healthier choices, and the pharmacy is an ideal setting for this purpose.

The Primary Care Strategy is a key part of the overall Health Strategy. Primary care should be the first port of call for the majority of people who use health services. It can meet 90-95% of all health and personal social service needs. The Strategy seeks to shift the emphasis from our current over-reliance on hospitals, to primary care centres, where patients will have access to a team of GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, chiropodists, social workers and home helps.

Wider networks of health and social care professionals, including community pharmacists, will work with the primary care teams, and this will require both formal and informal communications processes between the teams and networks.

In the interests of a patient-centered approach to service delivery, access to primary care services will be improved by extending the hours of availability of primary care professionals and providers and ensuring an appropriate core of services on weekends and public holidays. I appreciate that community pharmacists, on a formal and an informal basis, already provide extended services, so in some ways you are already ahead of other health professionals.

The Primary Care Strategy is about building on the strengths of the different service providers, in order to bring about an integrated and much-improved service to consumers and patients. Any improvements in primary care in Ireland rely on the evolving nature of community pharmacy and the continued development of professional best practice and quality patient care.

Community pharmacists can contribute in many ways to the delivery of this improved service, especially given their high level of interaction with both service providers and the public. While not being prescriptive at this stage about the type of enhanced services and supports which might be provided, some of the areas where developments might occur are:

The development of an increased clinical component to your work – in terms, for example, of developing the level of support and co-operation provided to prescribers;

Building on already existing practices of providing health advice to the public, not only about the use and

interactions of drugs but also about other health concerns on which advice is sought.

An enhanced role in health promotion activities, both through making materials available to the public and promoting a healthy lifestyle;

Increased use of information and communications technology for the transmission of prescription and other information between prescriber and pharmacist.

The Primary Care Strategy affords your profession the opportunity to build on these existing activities, so as to make an effective contribution to the new integrated primary care model. It will, of course, be necessary to work in partnership with the many other providers and interests involved to develop arrangements which will contribute best to the aim of the Strategy, which is to deliver a much enhanced primary care service to the consumer.

Pharmacy Review Group

You will also be aware that the Pharmacy Review Group is expected to report soon. The Irish Pharmaceutical Union is ably represented on the Group by your Secretary General, Seamus Feely. As the body representing pharmacists in the community, the Union´s constructive and valuable input into this Group is very much appreciated.

The Group´s task is to review the impact of the 1996 Pharmacy Regulations, and it was asked principally to assess the existing statutory restrictions on entry to the sector (on location and numbers of contracted pharmacies, and on pharmacists educated in other EU countries), and to put forward options to address these issues. The Group, in line with the principles for evidence-based policy formulation, set out in the 2001 report of the EU-based Mandelkern Group on Better Regulation, has based its approach on the following:

  • Public and interest group consultation
  • Ex-post analysis of the 1996 Regulations
  • Ex-ante analysis of possible options

The Minister will present the final report to the High Level Group on Regulatory Reform. The report is likely to make recommendations on a wide range of issues, including reform of primary legislation, access to pharmacy contracts and the application of the derogation on EU pharmacists.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude by once again thanking the Union for inviting me to the President´s dinner, and most especially for allowing me to address you on some of the current issues in pharmacy today. I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening, and I look forward to renewing my contacts with the Union and its representatives.