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November 2019

The 9th All-Ireland Pharmacy Healthcare conference took place last month, bringing together pharmacy colleagues from both sides of the border to share ideas and aspirations for the future of the profession on this island.

 It was the best-attended of such events yet and the atmosphere was relaxed and informal, without feeling pedestrian. It was an indication of how this conference has evolved over the years that the keynote address was delivered by Dr Catherine Duggan, CEO of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). Despite the FIP’s international remit, Dr Duggan displayed familiarity with the challenges that lie ahead on both sides of the border, such as timely access to medicines, pricing and capacity issues, among others. The atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive and it was also a nice touch to have the posters in the same room in which the presentations were delivered. There can sometimes be too many distractions when you’re making your way from the auditorium to the poster presentations, such as bumping into old friends and colleagues and caving-in to the temptation of an extra coffee and biscuit.

 The conference was also notable in that none of the speakers addressed Brexit, despite the fact that the conference was specifically designed to gather together pharmacy professionals from north and south. The attitude towards Brexit was pragmatic — the people who need to plan for Brexit are doing just that, while pharmacists themselves are getting on with the day-to-day business of patient care. At the time, the Brexit deadline had not been subject to yet another extension and a date for a UK election had not been set, so in hindsight, leaving Brexit to one side was a prudent move.

 Aside from those factors, there is an increasing sense of ‘Brexit fatigue’. Of course, plans need to be made, but in the end it engenders the same feelings as a visit to the dentist that is repeatedly postponed — anxiety over Brexit doesn’t change anything and doesn’t make you feel any better. And it certainly doesn’t help you care for your patients.

Overall, it was remarkable how much pharmacists as professionals from the north and south have in common — it’s all about the patient and anything else is just a detail. Including Brexit.●