Speeches

Address by Tim O´Malley TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, at the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland´s 2003 Conference

Introduction

As Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, and as a fellow pharmacist, it gives me great pleasure to be present this evening. I would like to take this opportunity to thank your President, Cicely Roche, and the Conference Committee for inviting me to the 2003 PSI Conference.

Pharmaceutical Society

Your Mission Statement requires the Pharmaceutical Society to “effectively direct and motivate the profession of pharmacy towards excellent pharmacy practice to facilitate optimisation of public health”. I am very aware of the important role, in carrying out its duty to protect public health, which the PSI has played in the development of the practice of professional pharmacy in Ireland.

Pharmacy has seen enormous changes in recent times: in technology (medical and administrative), the regulatory environment, primary care philosophy and pharmacy practice. The context in which pharmacists operate is almost unrecognisable from when I entered the profession. The Society´s role in developing pharmacy and protecting public health in this period has been an increasingly demanding and, at times, unpopular one. It is a task from which the Society has neither shirked nor taken the easy path.

Pharmacy Bill

An updated pharmacy act, to consolidate and expand the existing legislation, has been a constant, if elusive, goal of the Department and the profession for nearly three decades. Significant effort was made on this task in the first half of the 1990s. However, pharmacy practice in Ireland has changed significantly even since then.

The great changes in our professional lives have made one issue very obvious: without a comprehensive and robust framework of modern legislation, the Society could put in five times the effort and resources that it currently does, and not achieve any more than it already has done on professional development and public health. We would all accept that the 1996 Agreement was a giant step forward in providing a modern, professional and consistent service to our customers and to the public health system. Seven years on, it is no longer sufficient to confine these benefits to contracted services. The standards set out in clause 9 and other areas should apply to all pharmacy services. This can only be done by placing them, where appropriate, on a statutory basis, with the resources necessary for effective monitoring and enforcement of that professional regime.

The proposed pharmacy bill will consolidate and update all the pharmacy legislation, back to 1791, and will incorporate recommendations from the Pharmacy Review Group. The bill will aim to provide for the safe and effective delivery of pharmaceutical services to all citizens, and to reinforce the position of the Society in relation to the education, training, registration and control of pharmacists, in a clear and manageable statutory framework.

The Society has, to put it mildly, been to the forefront in raising these issues with my department. The Society´s contributions have been direct, focused, concrete and constructive, and always very professional. This input has been very influential in shaping the work that will form the foundation and underlying principles of the proposed bill.

Review Group

As you know, the Pharmacy Review Group reported to the Minister for Health and Children earlier this year. While I do not propose to discuss details of the Report in advance of its publication, you may be aware that the Group´s recommendations raised complex legal and other issues. These issues have now been examined, and it is intended to publish the report shortly. I would congratulate the PSI on your input into the work of the Review Group. I can say that the Society was pivotal in ensuring that the Group examined, and made strong recommendations on, key issues affecting professional development in Ireland.

Wider Network

As we undertake this legislative programme, which will be the most important reform in Irish pharmacy in over a century, we should remember that our profession does not operate in isolation. The Primary Care Strategy seeks to shift the emphasis from our current reliance on hospitals, to wider networks of health and social care professionals, including community pharmacists, and this is an important part of the context in which our reforms will take place. As our population ages, healthcare demand, and in particular for pharmaceutical treatments, will grow. Equally important is preventing premature illness from developing in the first place. Primary care can meet 90-95% of all health needs. It should be the contact point for the majority of people using health services. Pharmacy, in both secondary and primary care, will change and be changed by this process.

Conclusion

Finally, I stated earlier, the Society has been to the fore in addressing the needs of our changing profession, and anticipating those needs into the future. I have no doubt, from the events that have taken place today, that this progressive attitude will continue long into the future. Congratulations on such a successful conference, and good (public) health to you all.