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Reduction in the number of complaints received by pharmacy regulator

August 23, 2016

The number of complaints received about pharmacists or pharmacies decreased by nearly a half last year, the pharmacy regulator has reported.  

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland’s (PSI) Annual Report 2015, launched today by Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, reported a total of 27 formal complaints received, compared to 51 complaints in 2014.  As in previous years, the majority of these complaints were from patients, with dispensing errors the most common category of complaint, followed by behaviour or professionalism issues. As well as receiving official complaints, the Annual Report also outlines that 90 expressions of concern were raised with the regulator, a 19% decrease on 2014.  The regulator commissioned a national public survey* in Spring 2016, which demonstrated that 96% of respondents were satisfied with services provided by pharmacies and had never experienced service or treatment that would give rise to unhappiness or complaint.

In relation to its Annual Report, key statistics from 2015 were outlined by the PSI. A total of 329 new pharmacists were added to the Register of Pharmacists in 2015, compared to 307 in 2014. This brings the number of registered pharmacists to 5,645. The number of registered pharmaceutical assistants decreased by 29 over that same period to 423.
There were 1,880 retail pharmacy businesses registered with the PSI at the end of 2015, an increase on the 1,848 in 2014, with the PSI conducting registration inspections in conjunction with premises changes.  A total of 382 inspections were carried out by PSI inspectors in 2015 to check on systems, quality and governance arrangements in pharmacies, or to check about the method of delivery of the flu vaccination by pharmacists. Inspection compliance statistics are published on the PSI website.

The Preliminary Proceedings Committee (PPC), which considers all complaints made to the PSI, referred 12 complaints forward for further action by way of inquiry.  Ten inquiries were heard before the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) in 2015 and another one by the Health Committee.  Sanctions imposed by the Council, following inquiry, included four admonishments or censures, two conditions attached to pharmacists’ registration and one cancellation of a pharmacist’s registration.

Commenting on the PSI Annual Report 2015, PSI President Dr Ann Frankish said: “This year marked the mid-point of the PSI Corporate Strategy 2013-2017 and as a Council we are on track to meet the main objectives set out for the five years.  We continue to recognise a changing healthcare environment and changing patient expectations  through projects such as the Patient Charter and the Future Pharmacy Practice project**, which is looking at how pharmacy can contribute and support the wider health service in responding to challenges, in the interests of patients.  We are very aware, as a regulator, that we must be proportionate in our regulation, whilst also evolving our regulatory practices and approaches so that we are always in a position to address new risks and thereby protect patients. In this regard, we have been examining the PSI’s inspection model, and we are shortly introducing a new Pharmacy Assessment System, which will be a self-audit resource for community pharmacies and which will play a key role in building a risk-based model of inspection”

She continued, “As well as providing guidance for pharmacists in relation to particular medicines or matters of premises compliance, we also began the process of accrediting training programmes and creating supports for pharmacists’ provision of new vaccinations and emergency medicines, announced last year.  Looking to future pharmacy graduates, the five-year fully integrated Masters degree programme in pharmacy was approved with the first intake of students in September 2015.  In October last year we were delighted to open discussion on collaborative and interprofessional learning with a conference hosted with our regulatory colleagues and supported by the Department of Health. As always, we are grateful for the input of our stakeholders; six public consultations were carried out last year as well as other surveys and focus groups to inform our work.”

At an event attended by pharmacy stakeholders and wider healthcare representatives at the PSI offices on Fenian Street, Dublin 2, Minister Simon Harris, TD, also launched the first pharmacy patient charter, titled ‘A Patient Charter – You and Your Pharmacist’, which was developed by the PSI following a public consultation.  The new charter aims to provide a broader understanding of the role of community pharmacists and tells the public what they can expect when they visit a pharmacy. As the pharmacy regulator, the PSI wants people to be aware of standards their pharmacist should meet, while at the same time helping empower patients to actively look after their own health with the ongoing support of their pharmacist.

Speaking at the launch, Simon Harris, Minister for Health said; "I passionately believe that providing a comprehensive range of healthcare services closer to home is critical for keeping people well and out of hospital. The pharmacy has an integral part to play in this care. That is why I have made the development and expansion of primary care in every community a key priority and a key pillar in the Government's 10-year plan for Ireland’s health service. I commend the work of the PSI in establishing an effective regulatory system that has improved standards of care for patient benefit and I very much welcome the new Patient Charter which empowers patients to work with and harness the growing expertise of our community pharmacists in keeping people well and managing ill health.”

Recently appointed PSI Registrar and Chief Officer Niall Byrne said: “The PSI, as the statutory regulatory body for pharmacists and pharmacies, has a range of important functions which, taken together, serve to protect and promote the health, safety and wellbeing of the public. We know that as many as 58%* of the population visit a pharmacy at least monthly, accessing and engaging with pharmacists through the existing network of over 1,800 community pharmacies – a hugely important reach in terms of public access to health and wellness initiatives. The launch of the Patient Charter is an important step in helping inform patients about what they can expect in their interactions in a community pharmacy.  The Charter is intended as an aid to improve public understanding of the pharmacist’s role and the expanding range of services in community pharmacy, which should always have at its centre the health, wellbeing and safety of patients.  It also provides an opportunity to highlight to the public the positive role that the PSI plays, as regulator, and as with all charters, it informs the public as to how to seek clarification or redress if standards and expectations are not met in the pharmacy. I hope that the Charter will be seen as a useful resource, both for patients and pharmacists; that it will encourage open communication, the provision of clear information, and will help ensure the provision of safe and effective services.”

‘A Patient Charter – You and Your Pharmacist’ will be distributed to pharmacies, citizen information centres and libraries across Ireland.  The PSI Patient Charter and PSI Annual Report for 2015 are available to download from the PSI website.

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