June 2014

Strange Days Indeed.

John Lennon’s words came to mind as I sat down to write this. I have just spent a very educational morning in PSI House. I attended as a member of the public the public session of today’s PSI Council meeting. This would not be a my preferred method of spending a valuable day off but as I said above these are strange days indeed.

Last week I had heard rumours that two pharmacist members of Council had resigned. There was also rumours as to why they had resigned. Being of an enquiring mind I emailed the Regulator to ask amongst other things if two members of the Council had indeed resigned. And if this was the case what were their reasons for doing so. I received replies to the other queries in the email but not a dicky bird in relation to resignations. I accept that the staff in PSI House might well have concerns and obligations around the confidentiality of this matter. But even an email to say that they can neither confirm or deny or even comment upon this would have been nice.

So it was with this in mind that I decided to attend today’s session. Hopefully I might get a better feel for what was going on. To begin it was an early start. The meeting started at 8:30 (AM that is) and Regulator staff were already at their desks at that stage. The public, all two of us were not admitted until all the council was present. Well not all of the Council. There were a few late arrivals but I will spare their blushes by not naming them. I cannot attest to what happened before our arrival but a later comment lead me to believe that there was some brief discussion before the public session started.

Once in the lofty heights of the Council Chamber I quickly confirmed in my own mind who the two resigning members were. Apologies were made for those not present and all the other members had name tags in front of their seats. There was no mention nor any name tags for the presumably now ex-members of the Council. I will not mention their names here as the two pharmacists have not made any public comment that I am aware of. Neither have I made any attempt to contact either of them. By the time that this piece is published this may well be public information. Once the Minister for Health, whoever it might be by then signs and accepts their resignation then all the facts of the resignation will be in the public domain. And needless to say when this happens I shall be seeking copies of all relevant documentation.

The other reason for attending was item six on the agenda. “Draft Guidance on the delivery of prescription-only medicines from retail pharmacy businesses.” I had asked in one of emails if I could have a copy of this draft so that I might better follow the discussion. This was never addressed in any of their replies. One of the Council members handed me their copy of the draft and it did assist me in following the discussion. However when the Council rose for a break a staff member asked me to return it as “it was not a public document.” The discussion centred around what type of consultation process would need to be undertaken before the Council could approve any guidance. Many members expressed concern over the time line involved. They wanted to see this matter dealt with as a matter of urgency in the light of recent media comments. It was proposed that there should be the standard four week consultation period in which the views of individual practitioners and key stake-holders would be sought. This would then be considered by the PPD Committee before coming back to Council. This is where the timeline becomes important. This process will not be complete in time for the next planned Council meeting on 26th June. The next planned meeting after that will be Thursday 28th August. A long time away for an issue that many Council members needed to be addressed urgently. There was some discussion of issuing the draft guidance as a temporary measure but this was ruled out. It was felt that the Regulator should step into the space created by the media comments and show some leadership. I may be subject to correction here but the outcome was that the current guidance stands and   the regulator will issue a “strong statement” on the matter. Shades of the Skibeereen Eagle perhaps.

At the break I was invited to join them for some of the tea and coffee that was provided. “I might as well,” says I. “Seeing as how I’ve paid for it.” We all had a bit of a giggle at that.

That should have been the end of my interest in the meeting. Some of the earlier items on the agenda nearly had me dropping off to sleep. I didn’t want to show any disrespect by walking out in the middle of the meeting and the days locum was spent so I decided to wait until the end. Then came item eighteen of a twenty item agenda. “Policy and Procedure for the use of Executive Sessions.” A bland enough topic or so I thought. This was about the use of almost informal meetings of the Executive of the PSI and Council members which would have a loose agenda. From the discussion I got a very negative feeling about relations between the executive and some of the Council. The Registrar then outlined some of the legal framework within which the Council and the executive must operate. Other members of Council contributed their experiences working with other boards. It was decided that the Executive Sessions would take place as part of the private meeting of the Council with a minimal agenda and to be minuted by the President. My overall impression was that all was not well in this house of cards.

As with the nature of these articles some or all of this may be old news by the time it gets published. Either way these issues will run and run. As I said above it was educational. I wonder if this will count as part of my CPD. Strange days indeed.

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