Reflection of Pharmacy in 2021

Ms Joanne Kissane, Director and national co-ordinator, appel

In 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic continued to pose unprecedented challenges, risks and restrictions for pharmacy students, pharmacist trainers and the APPEL team. APPEL, the Schools of Pharmacy and our students responded with confidence and determination, and students continued their academic progression undeterred.

I am immensely proud of pharmacy students’ outstanding contribution to the public health response to the pandemic, particularly in supporting the HSE’s national vaccination programme as it rolled out in community vaccination centres. Pharmacy students on their experiential learning placements contributed their valuable skills in support of pharmacists and pharmacy teams throughout a challenging year.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the exceptional dedication of pharmacists, and wider pharmacy teams, without whose support, pharmacy student progression would not have been possible. They are leaders, mentors and role models to students and inspire the pharmacists of the future.

Over the coming year, I look forward to working with and hearing from our pharmacist colleagues and the wider APPEL stakeholder network as we continue to support our pharmacy students on their journey to qualification. In 2022, I hope pharmacists and pharmacy students are afforded greater opportunities to utilise their considerable skills and expertise within our healthcare system.

Mr Tomás Conefrey, Community Pharmacist

As each year ends, I always like to reflect back on how it went for me, both personally and professionally. Working in community pharmacy has never been easy, but it also has never been as challenging as it’s been in the last 18 months, with about five years of change steamrolling over us in that time period.

As part of a team, I have come to appreciate my colleagues’ contributions to our business — I have been impressed particularly with the pharmacy students, who were an enormous help to us over that period of time. Keegan, Liew and Aoife were really thrown into the deep end and were able to rise to the occasion with little difficulty.

I love working with students, as I learn so much from them. The perspective I gain has been invaluable in helping me to develop my approach to coaching them and how I can help them build a good foundation for their future careers, wherever that may lead them.

Mr Dermot Twomey, President, IPU

2021 has been another challenging year, which has been defined by what the pandemic has thrown at us.
Pharmacies stayed open and provided an invaluable service. It is no coincidence that the stock of community pharmacy has never been higher. Independently-commissioned polling by Ipsos MRBI in 2021 shows that
pharmacists are the most trusted profession in Ireland, with 96 per cent of people polled expressing their trust in us.

When finally called upon to administer Covid-19 vaccines, we stepped up, administering over 325,000 vaccines since June. This has all come at a cost in terms of the significant pressures it has placed pharmacists and pharmacy staff. The difficulty in finding staff, locums in particular, has become acute and hugely challenging. Looking ahead to next year, I would like to see an alleviation of the manpower issues which we are facing. I would also like to see to pharmacists unifying and working together constructively while respecting our differences of opinion.

And finally, I hope that all of us can get on with living and enjoying our lives more than has been possible in the last two years.

Dr Catriona Bradley, Executive Director, Irish Institue of Pharmacy.

2021 was a year of paradoxes. The pharmacy profession proved its worth more than ever before with its tireless work on the front line throughout the long Covid journey … yet continued to be ignored in national models of care. The lack of pharmacist inclusion in the National Model of Care for Older Persons will adversely impact on the quality of care for frail and vulnerable patients in Ireland for years to come. It sometimes feels like we’re simultaneously seen and ignored by the health system, and it’s frustrating.

I take heart from the fact that we have fantastic pharmacists working within the profession, and I have seen so much evidence of this through the IIOP’s webinars, mentoring programme, peer support network and effective representation programmes. Yet, at a time when we have record numbers of pharmacists on the register, pharmacist recruitment and retention has never been more difficult. It doesn’t add up. We need to reflect on what’s happening and take collective responsibility for our profession, rather than waiting for someone to swoop in and solve our problem.

Two of the most rewarding projects for me personally this year were acting as conference host for Life Long Learning in Pharmacy International Conference 2021 and having the opportunity to host The Resilient Pharmacist podcast. Both were so enjoyable and simultaneously heart-breaking. Minutes before I opened the LLLP 2021 conference, there was a seismic shift in my world, as a significant relationship ended.

I didn’t have time to absorb what was happening in the moment, as I welcomed hundreds of international colleagues to the opening ceremony. Later, as I reeled in the aftershock, I found myself turning to my brave colleagues who contributed to the Resilient Pharmacist podcast, no longer the host, but a pharmacist trying to learn from her peers about how to bolster her resilience.

And learn, I did.

Ms Muireann Ní Shúilleabháin, PSI President

Despite what we might have hoped, the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications for Irish society and the provision of healthcare remain just as sharply in focus at the end of 2021. That said, I witnessed many moments of optimism during the year, with the roll-out of the much-anticipated Covid-19 national vaccination programme, in which pharmacists continue to play a significant role.

Like pharmacists across the country, I have seen the challenges and successes of ensuring continuity of safe patient care in a testing environment. As President of the PSI, the associated challenges of the pandemic stay on our agenda as we all remain involved in an important public health response.

Over the coming year, I am keen to progress and address issues that will offer greater opportunities to pharmacists to utilise their specific expertise, particularly within our communities. We have the chance to learn from the past 20 months and I look forward to working with and hearing from pharmacist colleagues and the PSI’s wider stakeholder network.

Ms Leonie Clarke, General Manager, Irish Medicines Verfication Organisation

I feel grateful for having got through 2021 relatively unscathed, given how challenging it has been for so many others, including my frontline pharmacy colleagues. Recruiting and integrating new members of the IMVO team while working remotely has been a new experience and I am proud of how well the team has done in this strange working environment.

Like everyone else, my hope for 2022 is that we can wave farewell to Covid and find a new ‘normal’ that reflects the best of what we have learned during the pandemic. Professionally, my priority is building on the progress made by IMVO in 2021 and ensuring that the useand-learn phase of FMD ends as smoothly as possible for everyone.

Mr Oliver O’Connor, Chief Executive, IPHA

For the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), 2021 has been a pivotal year. Most importantly, we have seen how the pharmaceutical industry has been at the heart of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic by applying its core competence and researching and delivering biopharmaceutical innovation globally.

It has been the year of the Covid vaccines and, as we approach December, the year also of Covid therapeutics. Several companies have led the way of course, but the truth is that many companies globally have collaborated together to play a part in this ongoing challenge to humankind.

The job is not done until all seven billion people in the world can be protected from the worst effects of Covid; we are well on the way to that goal through public and private investment and many new ways to scale-up production and delivery of vaccines and medicines. People working in the industry in Ireland, Europe and globally get a great sense of purpose seeing the impact of their work in everyone’s lives.

Like everyone else, our team at IPHA and our company leaders have found new ways to work remotely and deliver the high performance we aspire to. Notably, we have conducted negotiations on a new Framework Agreement on Pricing and Supply of medicines entirely remotely, without a single face-to-face meeting with staff from the Department of Health, Public Expenditure and Reform and the HSE. Whilst functional, this has not been as good for the process as traditional face-to-face meetings, in my opinion.

In the negotiations, we have sought to create a pricing, supply and funding environment where new medicines will be reimbursed at a steady flow and faster than heretofore for the care of patients. We have pointed out over recent years that Ireland lags behind most countries in Western Europe in making new medicines available. We want to improve this, providing new savings from price cuts on older medicines to go alongside State funding.

It is a complex mix of policies and pricing measures and, as I write, it is still not clear that we have an agreement text that all can sign-up to. More work needed. Finally, in this year, we are very proud of our public communications campaign, #InnovateForLife. It tells short stories about the difference our industry’s innovation makes in people’s lives. Do have a look. As I said about Covid, it gives so much purpose to the great work of thousands of people in Ireland in the biopharmaceutical industry.