An Irish Pharmacist Q&A with Ms Muireann Ní Shúilleabháin following her recent appointment as President of the PSI

Ms Muireann Ní Shúilleabháin, newly-elected President of the PSI Council, has over 30 years’ experience working across many facets of the pharmacy profession, including as a hospital pharmacist both in Ireland and the US. With an overall remit in medication safety, she has been an active advocate for quality and safety in medicines management at a local and national level. She has also been in a Chief/Superintendent role since 2001.

Here, the PSI President sets out her priorities for her term of office, which began in June, and discusses the regulator’s new online registration system, which is launching in August.

Muireann Ní Shúilleabháin

Your term as President runs until June 2022. What will be your main priorities during this time?

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the associated ongoing challenges in the delivery of healthcare services, understandably, will remain an important focus for the PSI for the foreseeable future. The PSI, with the support of Council, will continue to play an active role in the public health response to the pandemic, particularly prioritising support for the safe delivery of Covid-19 vaccination services by pharmacists.

Another key focus for me during my term will be on evolving a more effective regulatory model for pharmacies

The accessibility of pharmacies within our communities, coupled with pharmacists’ specific expertise in medicines and their use, have highlighted the further potential for the role of pharmacists and pharmacies in the delivery of healthcare, especially within the community. Over the coming year, I am keen to explore how we can work with key stakeholders on advancing this role.

“The PSI is committed to assuring public trust in pharmacy. This requires us to ensure that there is a regulatory framework in place that supports and facilitates pharmacists in their role within the future integrated healthcare system, which is provided for under Sláintecare.

“Building the PSI’s capacity and performance as a regulatory organisation is a key pillar of our new three-year Corporate Strategy, which follows on from work initiated under the previous strategy. My main focus will be on the development and implementation of new procedures governing how the Council manages the process for imposing sanctions arising from fitness to practise inquiries. With Council and the Executive working together, I am keen that we find a way to enhance and streamline the process for all parties, while maintaining the principles of natural justice and the right to a fair hearing.

What this means is that, for the first time, there will be a single online point of contact with the PSI

“Another key focus for me during my term will be on evolving a more effective regulatory model for pharmacies. Our 2021 work plan includes operationalising our regulatory risk framework. It is critical that we maintain our focus on the quality of pharmacy services and on defining, ideally through regulatory standards, what ‘good-quality’ services look like.

The Executive is already looking at how insights and learnings can be shared, as is the case with other regulators here and internationally, to help progress quality and safety across the community pharmacy sector. Our ongoing work on the development of a standards-based approach to regulation will be an important contributor to this process.”

The PSI is introducing a new online registration system. What can pharmacists and pharmacy owners expect with the new system?

“The new platform covers all aspects of pharmacy, pharmacist and pharmaceutical assistant registration, as well as pharmacist qualification recognition for first-time applicants. What this means is that, for the first time, there will be a single online point of contact with the PSI. Pharmacists, pharmaceutical assistants and pharmacy owners can easily access all of their registration records, which are held in one place, using their unique login details.

It will be easier to update any details previously given to the PSI and it will be simpler and quicker to complete their annual continued registration and make payments. The new system is smartphone-friendly, which means they can update their registration profile while on the go at any time.

“For pharmacy owners, the annual continued registrations can be completed entirely online, eliminating the
need for paper applications. Additionally, if a pharmacy is owned by a company, the company secretary will have their own log-in to access and manage the pharmacy’s registration profile. This is important, as company secretaries will have to sign-off on continued registrations going forward.

“It is now also easier for the public to access information on our public register, such as details of a pharmacy’s supervising pharmacist and its opening hours, for example. We expect to see more use being made of the register by all of our stakeholders in the future.

“While the new system is easier and quicker to use, we would encourage registrants and business owners to explore and familiarise themselves with the system ahead of their registration renewal date. There are videos on our website to support the registration process, as well as a support team in place if further assistance is required.”

The registration system is part of the PSI’s Business Transformation Programme. What does that involve?

“Like all public bodies, the PSI must continuously strive to improve and innovate. We are committed to building an agile and high-performing organisation so that the PSI is better equipped to deliver on our public interest mission. As a regulator, we recognise the importance of being responsive to the needs of stakeholders and the importance of being accessible and easy to communicate with. We also recognise that it may have been cumbersome to do this as part of the previous registration process.

“Building the PSI’s capability and performance as a regulator continues to be a strategic priority. A key enabler of this is the current Business Transformation Programme, which essentially aims to deliver better ways of working, including new digital services, so we can become a ‘Digital First’ regulator. We intend to complete this programme under the lifetime of the current strategy, moving to utilise new systems, data and digital tools.”

How will this contribute specifically to improving pharmacy regulation?

“It will make it easier for pharmacists, pharmaceutical assistants and pharmacy owners to communicate with us, which is an important first step and key benefit of the new system. It will also introduce efficiencies by moving current paper-based activities, such as changes to supervising and superintendent pharmacists, online. The PSI and the public will also have information available in ‘real-time’ about pharmacists, pharmaceutical assistants and pharmacies.

“The new registration system is the first phase of a four-phase programme of work under the PSI’s Business Transformation Programme. Future phases will involve the development and integration of systems for the management of complaints, concerns, queries and pharmacy quality compliance and assessment.

“When the Business Transformation Programme is complete, the systems and processes available to the PSI will serve as key enablers to the development of our regulatory risk framework, helping us to further assure the safety of pharmacy services for the public.”