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Public trust in pharmacists remains high

July 24, 2017

  • 95% of public trust their pharmacist
  • 2 million visits per month to pharmacies
  • Number of pharmacists up 11%
  • Number of retail pharmacy businesses up too

Trust in the pharmacy profession remains high according to new research commissioned by the PSI, the pharmacy regulator, with 95 per cent of the public saying they trust their pharmacist. An estimated two million visits are made to a pharmacy per month and the PSI’s annual report for 2016, which was published today, shows that 42 formal complaints were received about pharmacists or pharmacies during 2016. While latest figures represent an increase on 2015¹, they are in line with the average for the past five years. The majority of complaints came from patients and related to dispensing errors and pharmacists’ behaviour and professionalism.

The PSI’s 2016 annual report also shows that the number of pharmacists registered to practice in Ireland continues to climb with 370 new pharmacists added to the Register of Pharmacists during the year, an increase of 11% on 2015. This brings the total number of registered pharmacists to 5,908, the majority working in community pharmacy.

The number of retail pharmacy businesses is continuing to grow too. There were 1,905 retail pharmacy businesses registered with the PSI at the end of 2016, up from 1,880 in 2015². The regulator carried out a total of 247 pharmacy inspections during the year, a public protection measure that checks on the operating systems, quality and governance arrangements of a pharmacy. The PSI also inspects all new pharmacies before they open. Inspection compliance figures are published on the PSI website.

Commenting on the 2016 Annual Report, Niall Byrne, Registrar, who joined the pharmacy regulator in July 2016, said that the organisation’s many actions during the year reflected its continued commitment to protecting public health and ensuring patient safety against a backdrop of continued change within the healthcare environment and evolving patient and public expectations.

He states: “Pharmacists are the most accessed healthcare professional, with a pharmacy in almost every town and village in Ireland. Most importantly, they are highly trusted and respected. National health policy continues to focus on enhancing preventative healthcare, promoting wellbeing, and prioritising the delivery of patient care as close to home as possible. Patient and public expectations are changing too as the growing success of the seasonal influenza vaccination service provided in pharmacies has shown. As the pharmacy regulator, we need to look at how pharmacy practice can evolve and expand to realise the patient benefits and the ambitions for healthcare delivery in Ireland.”

The PSI completed a number of significant projects during 2016 aimed at improving the profession of pharmacy and supporting public health benefit. In the final quarter, it introduced the new Pharmacy Assessment System to all community pharmacies. The self-audit tool is designed to aid ongoing performance review, assess compliance with medicines and pharmacy legislation, and ultimately identify any improvements required in pharmacies. It was developed in conjunction with the pharmacy profession and other stakeholders.

The regulator also published Future Pharmacy Practice in Ireland - Meeting Patient Needs, a major report on how pharmacists can best meet the needs of patients and the public into the future. Rory O’Donnell, recently appointed President of the PSI Council, outlined that “the report contains a number of significant recommendations for the planning and delivery of patient care and pharmacy services in Ireland, anticipating patients’ healthcare and medicines needs in the future and identifying the role that pharmacy can play to meet these needs and alleviate some of the challenges to the health system. It followed an extensive consultation and information-gathering process involving patients, healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, other regulatory bodies, and engagement with policy-makers including the Department of Health, HSE, and wider stakeholders. The PSI has since begun a process of engagement with these stakeholders on the implementation of the report’s recommendations.”

The pharmacy regulator also introduced the first pharmacy Patient Charter during 2016. It sets out what pharmacy service users can expect from community pharmacists while also highlighting the role of pharmacists in healthcare provision and the expanded services available in pharmacies.

Eighteen inquiries were heard and concluded before a PSI Committee of Inquiry in 2016. The Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) heard 15 complaints while the remainder were heard by the Health Committee. Sanctions imposed included five admonishments or censures; seven undertakings; four conditions attached to pharmacists’ registration and one cancellation of a pharmacist’s registration.

The PSI also undertook a number of initiatives during the year relating to the maintenance and promotion of high standards of patient care, doing so in collaboration with a wide range of partners and stakeholders. They included the establishment of a working group with the Medical Council to examine patient safety matters which focused particularly on safe prescribing and dispensing.

They also worked in partnership with the Irish Institute of Pharmacy (IIOP) to ensure the necessary training was in place to equip pharmacists with the appropriate skills and knowledge necessary to safely administer medicines and vaccines to the public in an emergency, following the introduction of legislation to provide greater access to certain medicines in an emergency as well as an expansion of the vaccinations that can now be provided by trained pharmacists. Independent research amongst patients, published by the PSI in 2016, examined their experience of receiving the seasonal influenza vaccination service in pharmacies across Ireland and showed that the overwhelming majority (99%) would return to a pharmacy for the flu injection.

Read the PSI Annual Report 2016

¹ 2015 - 27 complaints; 2014 - 51; 2013 - 48; 2012 – 48.
² 2014: 1,848 retail pharmacy businesses

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