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New Code of Conduct for Pharmacists

September 25, 2019

On World Pharmacists Day, the PSI launched a revised statutory Code of Conduct, which sets out the ethical standards that all pharmacists practising in Ireland must meet. An extensive consultation process formed part of the substantial review of the pre-existing Code, which had been in place since 2009. The result is a distinctly patient-centred revision that addresses developments in the delivery of healthcare over the past decade. The Code is aimed at supporting pharmacists in their current and future professional practice, and to ensure that pharmacists provide the best possible health outcomes for their patients. The new Code of Conduct comes into effect on 21st October 2019.

As with its predecessor, the revised Code of Conduct – Professional Principles, Standards and Ethics for Pharmacists focusses on ensuring that all pharmacists practice in a way that maintains and improves the health, wellbeing, care and safety of patients. It provides seven key principles that are centred on professionalism and care, such as effective communication; upholding public trust and confidence in the profession; maintaining competence, as well as the importance of collaboration with patients and other healthcare professionals.

The Code sets the standards for good professional practice. In the event of a finding of serious misconduct for a breach of the Code, the Council of the PSI can impose sanctions, which include the suspension or cancellation of a pharmacist’s registration to practice.

Speaking at the launch, Niall Byrne, Registrar and Chief Officer, PSI, encouraged every pharmacist to familiarise themselves with the Code including the professional responsibilities which it sets out and the ethical standards that the public, patients and other healthcare professionals expect from pharmacists. Mr Byrne said ”What was clear to the PSI from our engagement during this review is that there is a desire amongst professionals and the wider public that healthcare is ethically-led. Pharmacists offer unique expertise in the area of medicines, the most common intervention in resolving people’s health issues, and an area of professional practice that is evolving, challenging and complex. The Code of Conduct is a public declaration of the high degree of trust which people should be able to have in the care they receive in a pharmacy and from pharmacists.

With over two million visits made by the public to pharmacies every month, maintaining that professional trust is vital and requires pharmacists to display full technical competence in their chosen profession, but also to behave with probity and integrity and to be accountable for their actions or omissions. I hope that this revised Code is something pharmacists can take pride in as they demonstrate their commitment in their day-to-day practice to professional, patient-centred care.“

The Code of Conduct applies to all pharmacists whether they practise in community, hospital, industry, in regulation or in any other form of professional practice.

The PSI Code of Conduct is mandated under legislation and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D., gave his consent for the revised Code during the summer. The Minister stated: “Pharmacists play a key role in delivering health care in our communities. The manner in which they practise their profession has a direct effect on the patient experience and on patient safety outcomes. The principles in this Code are fully patient-centred, placing an emphasis on communication, professional competence and care. It is particularly welcome that the new Code reflects changes that have taken place in our health service and in our society, and that it will support pharmacists as they play their part in helping build a more integrated healthcare system, in keeping with the recommendations of the Sláintecare report"

Mervyn Taylor, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, support and advocacy service for vulnerable adults, said “Sage Advocacy welcomes this new Code of Conduct from the Pharmacy Regulator. Thanks to their widespread accessibility and expertise in medicines, pharmacists can play a critical role in the day to day lives and health of older people – both those living at home or within congregated care settings. We welcome in particular the clarity in this latest version on the obligations and standards that are expected such as in the areas of consent and safeguarding”.

We are hosting a series of information meetings across the country for pharmacists to coincide with the roll-out of the Code over the coming weeks. 

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