Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
With that in mind, I will keep my contribution as short as possible. I welcome the members of the Registered Pharmaceutical Assistants Association to the Gallery. As I stand today in favour of these measures, I should say that patient safety comes first. I see nothing but improved patient safety coming from the role of the pharmaceutical assistant, who is there to help in terms of giving advice, helping with compliance and knowing patients over a long period. We have all been told how long most of these people have been practising. They have a right of expectation when they qualify and get a title that they would be allowed to practise and not be deprived of that livelihood. We have plenty of precedent across medicine, architecture and many other professions of grandfather clauses. In this instance, it might be more appropriate to call it a grandmother clause but on a serious note, had the Minister decided otherwise, I believe it would have resulted in litigation, as there is a right of expectation in the contract.
I thank the Minister for taking the approach he has. We are all aware that sometimes, when we put down amendments with the best will or intention, some tweaking must be done to get the result we want. It is very clear from the Minister and everybody here that we want to see this title maintained. While there will not be any more pharmaceutical assistants, people have a right of expectation to finish their careers with dignity, as the Minister pointed out, and with certainty, which is very important. In no way should anything we do be seen to undermine or demean the excellence of service that this title and grade of assistant has delivered in communities right across the country.
As a GP, I know that when people come to me I am not the first person they have consulted. They may have consulted mammy, granny, the pharmacist and the public health nurse before they bother coming to see me. The role we are discussing today is very important and without it, the health service would be in serious trouble.