In Conversation with Mr Daragh Connolly

In Conversation with Mr Daragh Connolly, President Irish Pharmacy Union and Proprietor of Haven Pharmacy Connolly’s, Dungarvan

Daragh Connolly was elected as President of the IPU by the Executive Committee and took up the position at the IPU National Pharmacy Conference on 24 April 2016. He has been involved with the IPU for a number of years and was previously Vice-President. Daragh is a third generation pharmacist. He graduated from the University of Portsmouth in 1996, where he was President of the Pharmacy Students’ Association. He is a native of Waterford and proprietor of Haven Pharmacy Connolly’s in Dungarvan.

Do you feel that there is an erosion of the conventional boundaries between selfcare, primary care and secondary care and that the needs of patients are shifting?
SelfCare shifts the priority in healthcare back to where it belongs by putting the person at the centre and focus of everything we do. SelfCare gives choice and easier access to healthcare and information. We are thankfully moving away from a hierarchical model of care to a networked model.

Could pharmacists have an expanded role to eliminate the pitfalls of patient self-diagnosis?
Self-diagnosis is most often the first step in starting a healthcare journey or pathway. The pitfall of self-diagnosis is not just about getting poor information from Google but when we delay accessing professional advice which allows the situation to deteriorate. The pitfall we have for patients in Ireland is getting them timely and appropriate care. Pharmacists working at full scope can offer more timely and appropriate access to better care. Every member of the healthcare family working at full scope makes every contribution more meaningful and delivers much better outcomes.

Has the pilot programme for the Minor Ailment Scheme (MAS) proved successful?
Minor Ailment Schemes prove themselves really successful wherever they are run. The IPU and HSE together ran a proof of concept trial not to gauge whether a MAS would be worthwhile but how the mechanics of the back office could run and gauge patient satisfaction or what a roll out would look like. As expected satisfaction among all participants and stakeholders was off the scale.

What does the future look like for the Minor Ailment Scheme (MAS)?
Our MAS has exceeded all the criteria for proof of purpose and proof of concept. It is ready for roll out. It is fully aligned with the objectives of Slaintecare. The future of the MAS is now in the hands of our Minister for Health.

Can pharmacists play a greater role in the reduction of work overload that GPs are facing?
Absolutely! Looking at just the MAS we know there are 947,000 GP prescriptions written yearly for medicines that are available as OTCs. That means there are nearly 1 million GP consultations for Medical Card patients that could have been dealt with more appropriately by their Pharmacist as we do every day for our private patients. There are 23 million GP consultations yearly in Ireland. This means the most basic of MASs would free up 4% GP capacity or in other terms be the equivalent of employing 75 full time GPs at no cost to our healthcare system

Are there regions in Ireland where pharmacies have hit saturation point or is there always room for more?
We are finding that as funding isn’t being made available for the new services pharmacists could offer commercial realities dictate that new pharmacies open in affluent areas where they will be viable through a strong retail offering in combination with their professional practice. This means that communities that are deprived, rural or isolated are losing pharmacies as they are unviable for younger pharmacists to open or buy. These are the very areas that are also losing GP services for the same reasons and where healthcare need is at its greatest.

What do community pharmacies need from government?
We need a vision for pharmacy within Slaintecare and the resources to back that up. We are hopeful now there is an implementation board headed up by the very capable Laura Magahy that we will see that happen in 2019. The IPU has been a willing advocate for change and advance of practice for better patient outcomes. We want to see that willingness reciprocated.

What will the role of the community pharmacist look like in five years’ time compared to as it is now?
Good question! It really depends on the government. If pharmacists are freed to practice at full scope and that practice is resourced for public patients we will spend more time with patients doing more for them particularly through specialist services like Medicine Usage Reviews, Contraceptive Services, New Medicine Service, Therapeutic and Disease Management.

Have you seen an increase in visits to your pharmacy since the ‘Be Well this Winter – Think Pharmacy’ campaign was launched?
Yes, I have. People are proactive about their health and value the advice and service we offer. Our year on year uptake for Influenza Vaccination is fantastic. We know people really want their pharmacist to be allowed do more for them. They value choice.

What advice would you give to young graduates interesting in pursuing a career in pharmacy?
I love being a community pharmacist. I would recommend it as a career choice because you become part of a community and you can make real differences to people’s lives and their healthcare journey. It is a career like any other that will have its challenges and we are in one of those challenging times right now as we emerge from a lost decade of growth and investment. The advance in practice to full scope is coming as these are the solutions that every advanced country in the world has chosen. We have started with Vaccination and Contraceptive Services and they will bring more due to their success. My advice would be to cherish your autonomy and your skill. Embrace and drive change as it is the only certainty!

What do you do in your pharmacy to ensure patient loyalty?
We add value to every patient and customer experience. The growth we have seen in our practice and business since becoming a founder member of the Haven Co-operative is based around Expert Care, and it is delivering wins for us, our suppliers and most importantly the people who choose us as their pharmacists.

What is your favourite book?
The last book I read that I really enjoyed is called “Messy” by Tim Harford. I would recommend it highly.

If you were not a pharmacist what career would you choose?
I’ve never given that idea a whole lot of thought. I am lucky to have another string to my bow through my advocacy work with the IPU so something in that direction.

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