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The HPAI Annual Educational Conference 2023 saw an impressive attendance level, with an agenda that sparked a lot of interest and discussion.

At the event, Mr Diarmaid Semple, conference organiser and Chair of the HPAI Education Committee, spoke with Irish Pharmacist (IP) about this year’s conference. “There was really good engagement, considering we haven’t had a conference in four years [due to Covid],” he said. “In terms of the sector, there have been a lot of changes, amalgamations and ‘hive-offs’, and companies were really interested in getting back and meeting with pharmacists and getting updates on their products on the ground and [discussing] new products coming to market.”

He explained that the HPAI received 75 posters for presentation from throughout Ireland and he lauded the sometimes unseen work by not only the larger hospitals, but also the smaller sites. “Some of the hospitals in the West or the South, which one wouldn’t consider to be the biggest hospitals, are doing great innovative work to get around shortages of staff, to make sure that patient safety comes first and to free-up time,” he told IP. “They have shared that with us here so that we can all learn from it. There has been really good feedback from our workshops — we had an international presenter from the EAHP, and two Irish PhD awardees who presented their work on elderly people and falls risks. They present their work at European conferences too, and it’s great to see them showcased here.”

He also commented on the innovation that is required in hospital pharmacy. “We are very innovative, and we do it somewhat in the background,” he said. “Sometimes, we are fixing problems that the doctors don’t know they have — patients don’t know that the drug that has come to them in the cup, that the process behind that isn’t someone simply popping it out of a blister pack. There is a process of evidence on whether to use that drug over a different one, the procurement of that drug, how it fits in with the hospital, and so on. We often spend our time fixing problems that no-one knows they have and it’s only when something goes wrong that people wonder what happened.”

However, such innovation is born of necessity. “It’s because like everywhere else in the health service, it’s [innovation] because we simply don’t have enough staff. So we are innovating to make sure that patient care is maintained, and that’s really positive for the profession because we could withdraw into our departments, count tablets and procure drugs. But we are not — we are finding ways to try to minimise the amount of time we do that, and maximise the amount of time that we have on the wards to improve patient safety.”