Pharmaceutical Assistance?

In Blogby Rashers Tierney1 Comment


One of our readers got in touch about some shenanigans within the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland that is going to adversely affect a predominantly female and part-time workforce.

Ailbhe Ní Bhroin’s ma is a pharmaceutical assistant and she claims that the PSI is basically trying to force her and her colleagues out of the work force. They want to redefine their qualifications some 30 years after conferring them.

We’ll let her take over:

“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 8th, 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 7th. 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, D02 TD72.”

There’s more on it over at the Registered Pharmaceutical Assistants website where a series of regional meetings are being organised.

What do ye think?


  1. This is very sad and unfortunate for these women working part-time, but I’m sorry to say that they’re not as qualified as a professionally trained pharmacist – someone who has studied at Trinity College or UCC for 5 years. It’s also annoying that these workers often pretend to be pharmacists when they have just completed one year of study in the 1970’s or 80’s! It’s not the same as being a pharmacist and they’re not as knowledgeable or qualified, it’s not fair on the qualified pharmacists. And I strongly disagree with this girl’s point saying that the PSI should just change their qualification to that of a pharmacist – sorry not the same degree of knowledge so therefore not the same thing.

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