June ’13

Random Bits & Pieces From the IPU Conference.

Much as I love working at the mucky coal-face that is Irish pharmacy occasionally it is nice to see sunshine. So for a glimmer of hope I like many others attended the IPU Annual Conference in Carton House a few weeks ago. First off let me add my congratulations to all those involved in organising it. It was a great success and their efforts were much appreciated. On a personal note I would like to thank all those who gave me feedback on these articles and offered me their support and encouragement. I should also add that parts of this article were not part of the official program but were raised in many of the side meetings, i.e. the bar!
The theme of the conference was the future of pharmacy. Because of the current climate a lot of this centred around the business of pharmacy. Many of the sessions looked at how we can improve the way that we practice our profession as well as improving the bottom line at the same time. There has to be a business model around providing better services. This was addressed at the open forum on Saturday. There are many extra services that we can provide such as MURs, a range of vaccinations and minor illness management but we cannot be expected to offer these for free. Somewhere down the line there has to be a payment structure in place if these services are to become a reality. Given the current austerity and the Department of Health’s apparent desire to give all it’s spare cash to GPs and High Tech manufacturers getting payment for these services will be difficult. That’s a bit of an understatement, it would make getting blood from a stone look like child’s play. Discussion on this also raised an old bugbear of mine. I have written in the past that it was my view that the PSI would like to see two pharmacists at all times in every pharmacy. And just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that I was wrong. Paul Fahy, representing the PSI in the forum confirmed that they would like to see double cover particularly when any extra service was being provided. There is nothing in current pharmacy law or regulation to require this. What in my view we have here is the PSI trying to make their interpretation definitive. The courts are the body charged with interpretation of regulations and the PSI’s interpretation is in reality just another opinion. While the PSI has many good points in relation to this matter one effect, intended or otherwise, would be to cut out the small independents from providing any extra services. Especially in the absence of any funding to allow for a business model that might allow for a second pharmacist at least some of the time. The current vaccination scheme is running at a loss and I would hate to see a situation whereby the chains, both multinational and Irish, use these services as a loss leader to try and drive another nail in the coffin of small independents.

There was also some discussion about PSI inspections and prosecutions. It would appear that because the Pharmacy Act and regulations are so new that they are trying to set down some markers or precedents. This would set the bar for future prosecutions and Fitness To Practice hearings. Playing devils advocate here if I were in their shoes I would be looking for a small independent to take on. Probably one who could not afford proper representation so that they would be an easy target. Indeed in one case that I heard of despite having the case thrown out a pharmacist still had to pay the PSI’s costs in the matter. When and not if this happens we will all have to be ready to pony up the readies [edit: put in cash here if you think that readers will not understand the slang] and support the victim. Even if we might find what they have been accused of distasteful we should be set to make sure that they get a full, fair and proper hearing and that any precedents that are set are good ones.
Again if I were in the PSI’s shoes I would stay away from taking on one of the chains of any size. There’s no fear of this as again from conservations it would appear that some of the inspectors think that the multiples can do no wrong. I wonder how many of the PSI employees have any prolonged experience of working in community pharmacy let alone the small and medium sized independents.
Towards the end of the open forum Prof. Michael Barry was asked why brand names were used in the recent letter to GPs in relation to recommended PPIs and statins. I was slightly shocked but not too surprised to hear that brand names were used as many GPs were not aware of generic names. It is plain to see that big pharma have a very effective sales force. Good luck to them, they’ll need it soon enough.

Another great success of the conference was the CPD sessions. They covered a wide range form clinical, to community care and to business matters. As many were running at the same time it was not possible to attend them all. The ones that I got to were well attended and well presented. Particular mention must go to Jack Shanahan not only for his presentation on e-prescribing but also for all the work done by him and his colleagues on the IT steering group of the IPU. With the passing of the ICCPE this is an area that I’m delighted to see the IPU getting involved with. They more than anybody are closest to what pharmacists want in CPD.

And lastly there was a presentation by the Benevolent Fund on Saturday evening. Times are hard for them too and any support is much appreciated. Due to the closeness of pharmacy in Ireland much of it’s work cannot be high lighted or publicized. We all hope that we or our families will never be in the situation where we need their help but for those who do we owe it them to keep the fund going.

And now it is time to put pit boots on and back to coal-face.

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