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PSNI is not fit for purpose - we need the GPhC!


PSNI is not fit for purpose - we need the GPhC!

Terry Maguire takes a sarcastic look at the situation of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland as the professional regulator in Northern Ireland…


I don’t care what other pharmacists say: I stand by our regulator, the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, and the splendid job it is doing. Keeping the public in Northern Ireland safe from the commercial excesses and professional incompetence of the pharmaceutical profession is a vital and essential job.

Pharmacists have to be watched. It’s such a pleasure to pay the more than reasonable £398 annual retention fee to ensure PSNI’s assertive oversight. It seems pharmacists in Great Britain are being short-changed since they only pay £257. I suggest GPC can’t possibly deliver a quality regulatory service for such a paltry sum.

I have little time for pharmacist moaners who gripe about the excellent new PSNI web portal on which we can now conveniently record our CPD and make our annual retention payments. The fact that this portal crashed repeatedly in the two weeks before the deadline for CPD completions and retention fee payments is nothing, it seems, to do with PSNI but the fault of a third-party contractor. So why are pharmacists so annoyed with our regulator?

Suggesting that the IT chaos was a major barrier to recording CPD and extremely time-consuming was a bit petty. Pharmacists, especially community pharmacists, have plenty of spare time. Even so, and very quickly in response to this unnecessary moaning, PSNI issued a statement announcing a more than generous additional week for pharmacists to complete their CPD requirements. If this does not indicate the lengths PSNI will go to support registrants, I don’t know what does.

I am, of course, a staunch supporter of CPD for pharmacists. Indeed, as past director of NICPPET, I was a contributor to the initial design and implementation of CPD as a professional requirement. The fact that this was 20 years ago and that CPD for pharmacists in Northern Ireland has seen only minor pedantic modifications since, while other professions move towards professional revalidation, is irrelevant.

This year I started inputting my CPD in January and was mildly irritated when I was contacted by the PSNI telling me that there was activity on my CPD account which could not be used as a new portal had been launched in November. Clearly, I had missed the email. How incompetent of me! I had to start all over again, which serves me right.

Colleagues who had suggested that the old CPD site should have been blocked and should not have accepted entries once the new portal became operational clearly didn’t know what they are talking about. And another irritating discovery is that the CPD activity I undertook in May/June 2021 now cannot be included as one of the pedantic modifications to the new site is that only CPD cycles involving activity in the current year can be considered.

This seems a very sensible point as something I learnt 12 to 13 months ago cannot possibly assure the public of my professional competence compared to something I learnt 12 to 11 months ago. It just makes total sense.

The fact that the business accounting system I use was developed in the last century is my fault, as is my frustration that the PSNI retention fee payment system cannot cope with old-fashioned payment methods such as cheques.

I know, I know! I need to update, to modernise and get with it, but I do use internet business banking and I can, if necessary, arrange to transfer the money. But the PSNI system is focused on a debit/credit card system arranged by a third party. And guess what? I don’t have a business debit card. I’ve never had one, never needed one, until now when the lack of a debit card risks me being struck off.

Anyway, once again the PSNI went out of its way to accommodate me after a number of time-consuming attempts to pay. I was kindly given details of a bank account, but I needed to include a code so that the payment can be tracked. There again – it is doing what is needed for the registrant.

There has been a history of aggressive trade union-like attacks on PSNI from the rank and file. Registrants need to realise that their views and opinions cannot be taken into account as the focus of all PSNI activity is - and we need to be clear on this - to look after the interests of the public.

The PSNI may have a statutory and legal responsibility to look after the interest of pharmacists, but this has been skilfully ignored, side-lined, and assigned to the Pharmacy Forum which is about as useful as the “g” in Omagh.

The Pharmacy Forum is, of course, useless because it is underfunded and lack support, which is a good way for PSNI to deal with the complexities of being a modern regulator with obligations to the public and the profession. And nobody seems to mind, so how can it be an issue?

I don’t care what anyone says. I stand by the PSNI.


Terry Maguire is a leading community pharmacist in Northern Ireland.


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