Speeches

Minister O´Malley addresses the Gala Dinner of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland´s Annual Conference

Introduction

I would like to thank the President, Cicely Roche, the Council and the conference committee of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland for their invitation to attend this Gala dinner. I am very happy to have the opportunity to attend and hear your thoughts on the development of pharmacy in Ireland and, in particular, on the subject of Primary Care and pharmacy.

Conference Theme – Primary Care

I know that you have had a detailed debate and discussion on the Primary Care Strategy earlier today. This 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 acute services, such as hospitals, to one-stop-shops where patients will be able to access 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 a number of 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 services outside normal working hours, so in some ways you are already ahead of some of the 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. 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 their advice is sought.

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

The increased use of information and communications technology to facilitate the transmission of prescription and other information between the prescriber and pharmacist, and vice versa.

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.

Developments in Undergraduate Pharmacy Education

I would now like to turn to the area of pharmacy education. Until recently, the University of Dublin, Trinity College, provided the only undergraduate degree course in pharmacy. As a result of increasing demand for pharmacists, highlighted in the Bacon Report of November 1999, the Department of Education and Science, the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Health and Children have been working to increase the number of training places. This has led to developments in the field of pharmacy education – the opening of a new school of pharmacy in the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) and the advancement of the accreditation process for a further school in University College Cork (UCC). I am aware that, in order to facilitate these new schools, the Society´s accreditation committee has had to cope with additional and exacting demands on its time and expertise. I am also mindful that, in the interests of maintaining public confidence in the quality of pharmacy education, the process for accrediting a new school of pharmacy is, of necessity, an independent, comprehensive and rigorous one. The Society has incurred costs in processing the applications for accreditation, and I am pleased to confirm here this evening the Department is making a contribution of €50,000 to the Society towards those costs.

I am confident that the much needed expansion of undergraduate pharmacy places facilitated by the new school in RCSI and, hopefully before too long, UCC, will help to address the shortage of pharmacists that is currently being experienced.

A New Pharmacy Bill

I would now like to refer to the work that is underway in the Department in relation to the preparation of proposals for a new Pharmacy Bill. I know that the profession has been awaiting developments in this area for a number of years and that there is general agreement that new legislation is required to update and consolidate the existing law. May I once again express the Department´s commitment to this task.

While there has been some slippage in the timeframe for producing the Heads of a new Bill due to pressures from other urgent work, I want to assure you steps are being taken to advance the process. The Department and the Society, through your Registrar and Assistant Registrar, have been involved in ongoing discussions in relation to areas that might be covered in the new legislation. Funding is being provided to the Society, by the Department is providing funding to facilitate the release of your Assistant Registrar to assist the Department in preparing new legislative proposals.

To date, four valuable discussion papers have been received from the Society. These papers deal with areas ranging from the role and function of the Society itself, accountability, education and training, to the provision of community pharmacy. I am aware that there are also other key areas such as fitness to practice and hospital pharmacy that the Society has views on and we look forward to exploring these further in the months ahead.

I know that your President has made reference in her address to matters that the Society would like to see provided for in the new pharmacy legislation, and I can assure you that those proposals will be taken into account in the context of developing the framework for the new Pharmacy Bill.

Pharmacy Review Group

You will also be aware that the Pharmacy Review Group is expected to report in the next few months. The Group´s task is to review the impact of the 1996 Community Pharmacy Contractor Regulations with a view to, among other things, assessing and responding to the OECD recommendations on:

restrictions on the location and number of state-contracted pharmacies, and restrictions on pharmacists educated in other EU countries.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland is ably represented on the Group by your Registrar, Ann McGee. As the body charged with the statutory role in protecting the public´s health and welfare, the Society´s constructive and valuable input into this Group is very much appreciated.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude by once again thanking the Society for inviting me to their Gala 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 building on the very good working relationship that exists between the Society and the Department.