REGULATOR PUBLISHES 2021 ANNUAL REPORT
The pharmacy regulator has published its annual report for 2021, outlining the “significant work undertaken by the agency to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of patients and the public by regulating pharmacists and pharmacies in Ireland”, said the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI).
It provides a detailed overview of the work undertaken so far in response to the targets of the PSI Corporate Strategy 2021- 2023. Developed against the backdrop of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the significant threat posed to all sectors of society, the strategy, under the direction of the PSI Council, identifies key strategic objectives, including building pharmacy resilience, adopting a ‘digital first’ business approach, and developing a robust regulatory model for community pharmacy settings. The PSI said it sees these as critical to ensuring that pharmacy healthcare activity is regulated to a high and consistent standard.
Whilst Covid-19 had a large impact on the pharmacy sector and the regulator’s work in 2021, the PSI stressed that it has continued to deliver on extensive responsibilities and make strong progress in strategic projects, “critical to assuring public and patient trust in pharmacy healthcare and services”.
The PSI said its significant activities during 2021 included:
- Work to facilitate pharmacy participation in the national Covid-19 vaccination programme.
- Management of the registration of 6,846 pharmacists, 254 pharmaceutical assistants and 1,981 pharmacies as part of PSI’s regulatory remit to assure public trust in the standard of pharmacy care and services.
- Launch of a new registration portal for PSI applicants and registrants as the first phase of an ongoing digital transformation programme.
- Implementation of the amended qualification recognition and registration process for applicants with qualifications obtained in the United Kingdom, as a result of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
- Implementing a new organisation structure to improve organisational capacity, planning and delivery.
- Reviewing 120 expressions of concerns, as well as 80 formal complaints during the year, with 25 complaints during the period referred for further action.
- Responding to 607 pharmacy practice-related queries from pharmacists and members of the public and implementing appropriate follow-up actions to deal effectively with queries.
With regard to the Register, the report also states: “There were 197 cancellations from the Register of Pharmacists, with 55 pharmacists removed involuntarily for reasons such as failure to apply for continued registration, failure to pay their annual registration fee and then failing to apply for voluntary cancellation. One pharmacist was removed from the Register following fitness to practise proceedings. Where a pharmacist indicated a reason for cancelling their registration, the reasons were as follows: 12 pharmacists emigrated, 36 pharmacists retired, 18 pharmacists returned abroad, three pharmacists took a career break, and three pharmacists cancelled their registration for study leave.
“In 2021, 24 pharmaceutical assistants voluntarily cancelled their registration, with 18 indicating that this was due to retirement. A total of six pharmaceutical assistants had their registration involuntarily cancelled. Eighteen pharmacists restored their registration under Section 61.”
Commenting on the publication of the annual report, Interim Registrar and Chief Officer Dr Lorraine Horgan said that the regulator had continued to deliver on its statutory remit to ensure public and patient trust in the country’s pharmacy services during the challenging circumstances of the global pandemic.
“Covid-19 had a huge bearing on the operational activities of the PSI and a significant amount of time and resources were engaged as part of the national response during 2021,” she said. “We had extensive engagement and collaboration with the Department of Health and others to progress the requisite legislation, systems, guidance, training, and governance to enable the effective participation of pharmacists and pharmacies in the national vaccination programme.”
Dr Horgan continued: “Pharmacists and pharmacies played a key role during the pandemic and maintaining public trust in the sector was of critical importance. Throughout the pandemic, pharmacists combined their ‘everyday’ duties with the extra responsibilities and demands brought about by the pandemic, across practice settings. Over 600,000 Covid-19 vaccines were administered in community pharmacies in the course of 2021. Our duty to ensure continued delivery of safe services remained and the ongoing implementation of the PSI’s Covid-19 Operational Standards, developed in 2020, was an important piece of work to provide guidance and support on the operating protocols for pharmacies during this period.”
Dr Horgan said that a total of 6,846 pharmacists were registered with the PSI at the end of 2021, with 1,981 pharmacies registered.
“It is part of our public protection remit to ensure that standards are met and maintained for pharmacists seeking to practise in Ireland, and that suitably trained pharmacists are available to provide safe, effective, and high-quality care that the public can continue to rely upon. While the growth in pharmacist registration numbers is less than pre-pandemic levels, there was a small net increase last year of about 80 pharmacists. We will continue to carefully monitor these numbers and impacts on the available pharmacy workforce as part of our pharmacist workforce project in 2022.
“We launched a single online point of contact for registration applications and renewals last year, which has facilitated the movement of several processes online, delivering efficiencies in terms of enhanced online security, improved quality of access, and reducing administrative burden for users, both internally and externally. It is part of our digital improvement journey.”
Dr Horgan also commented that the PSI receives information in different ways that informs its work. It recorded 607 general queries about pharmacy practice matters in 2021, of which 32 per cent were related to Covid-19, she said.
There were 120 expressions of concern (whereby a member of the public brings a matter to the attention of the PSI but does not want to make a complaint) lodged with the PSI, and a multidisciplinary team in the PSI assesses what regulatory action may need to be taken with these.
“Dealing effectively with complaints and disciplinary matters is a core feature of the PSI’s remit to maintain standards in pharmacies. During 2021, the PSI received 80 formal complaints. Fifty-nine complaints were considered by the PSI’s screening committee, the Preliminary Proceedings Committee, and in total there were 12 inquiries heard by the PSI’s statutory committees of inquiry last year.
“Looking ahead, our focus is on ensuring we have the most effective regulatory systems in place that respond and evolve to assure the safety of pharmacy services and to meeting the needs of the developing healthcare system. Together with the President and all of the PSI Council, we look forward to continued beneficial engagement with the Minister for Health, his Department, our registrants and other State agencies, as we undertake our work in the public interest.”
The full report can be accessed at: https://www.thepsi.ie/tns/Publications/ Publications/CorporateReportsandStrategy.aspx.