Meanwhile, At A Chemist Near You



Ailbhe Ní Bhroin writes:

Until 1979, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland offered a Pharmaceutical Assistant’s qualification which, in its most recent incarnation, consisted of 3 years’ apprenticeship and 1 year’s full-time study in an academic institution culminating in an examination.

Upon conferral, a Pharmaceutical Assistant (PA) was “competent to transact the business of a pharmacist in his/her temporary absence … In general terms therefore, and in circumstances where the registered pharmacist is temporarily absent from the pharmacy a registered PA may act on his/her behalf and carry out the functions of the pharmacist.”

Their qualification also stipulates that PAs cannot own a pharmacy, except under particular conditions which include employing a registered supervising pharmacist.

The PSI have recently (February 8, 2016) opened a draft publication to public consultation which seeks to redefine the qualification conferred upon PAs.

At present there are less than 400 registered PAs. The last examinations for this qualification were sat in 1985, meaning that the youngest PAs are in their mid-fifties. In other words, these – mainly – women will all be retired in approximately 10 years, making this particular qualification obsolete at that time.

However, the PSI are attempting to force them out of the workforce now by changing the conditions under which PAs can work: In particular in Rules 7 & 8 of the draft publication. Rule 7 defines the heretofore (since 1890) undefined “temporary absence” as no more than 12 hours per week.

This means that a PA will only be allowed to work for 12 hours in any week; this will most certainly lead to PAs losing hours, if not their jobs: A pharmacist will no longer be able to take 2 full days off in a week if his employee is a PA, therefore it will make more sense to hire a registered pharmacist in place of the PA.

Furthermore, if there is any sort of emergency, or the employing pharmacist plans a holiday, the PA – who up until this draft publication has been considered fully competent to cover during these periods, and has been for decades – will be unable to cover, meaning an unknown – to the customers – and usually inexperienced locum will be required.

Again, the inconvenience of this will lead to a number of PAs losing their jobs, or at the very least, losing the chance to work some extra hours.

Furthermore, Rule 7 requires that a PA work alongside a supervising pharmacist for 12 hours in the preceding month. The PAs have – at the very least – 30 years practical experience in retail pharmacy.

They have, generally, worked alone in the temporary absence of their employer; they do not need to be supervised in this way. This belittles both their qualification and their experience.

Again, very few pharmacists will be able to justify paying a PA for these supervised 12 hours per month, when a registered pharmacist is not required to work them.

Rule 8 stipulates that a PA cannot act in the capacity of the supervising pharmacist. In practical terms, this completely vacates the qualification conferred on assistants by no longer allowing them to “act on his/her [the supervising pharmacist’s] behalf, and carry out the functions of the pharmacist.”

This draft publication is open to the public until Monday, March 7. Comments are welcome via email at with the subject “Temporary Absence Consultation” or via post to Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, PSI House, Fenian Street, Dublin 2.


Public consultations (The Pharmacy Society of Ireland)

13 thoughts on “Meanwhile, At A Chemist Near You

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      The system has worked until now – why not changed it to allow these people to keep working until the retire/allow them to upgrade if they wish rather than forcing them out of work?

    2. Ailbhe

      A “loophole” that has worked for 126 years, and which affects a group of people with at least 30 years retail pharmacy experience. They are just as qualified as a registered pharmacist; the only restriction on their qualifications is that they cannot own a pharmacy. They are not looking to own one. They are looking to finish their careers up to retirement without suddenly becoming unqualified for something they’ve been qualified for for decades.

    3. Lordblessusandsaveus

      “a loophole”

      There is no loophole.

      This was a qualified position which is being phased out.

    1. Dee

      Hope when the day comes for “progress “in your career that you have not spent 30-40 years working and are about to be thrown aside by the very establishment which set your course, examined you and conferred a qualification on you Digs !

  1. Nollaig

    Legislation makes it difficult to compete with incumbent pharmacies. Hence higher prices for us all, and wealthier pharmacists. Can’t think of one off the top of my head that closed during recession – steady stream of money from Govt’.

  2. Lordblessusandsaveus

    The Irish are one of the most dependent on prescription drugs.

    In many cases, pharmacies are little more than official legalized drug dealers. Most people buy painkillers for the slightest ache. People can’t handle even fleeting discomfort anymore.

    And lots of people become dependent on them.

  3. Thirdconfuciusontheright

    Ah sure why not add a few hundred more people to the dole queues around the country! I would imagine that there would also be a hugely detrimental effect on (at the very least) the smaller pharmacies serving more rural communities given the additional costs of replacing the pharmaceutical assistants who have been in place for decades.

    Breathtakingly callous of the PSI to try and redefine the very qualification that they themselves conferred! And not to simply tweak the qualification but to leave it, and those who hold it, quite literally redundant!

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