Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (819)

Olivia Mitchell


829 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Health the action that has been taken to ensure that the under-dosage of the influenza vaccine does not reoccur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35231/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

I welcome the Report of the Risk Review Group which I received from the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) last week. The Risk Review Group was established by the PSI to independently review and report on the underdosing of some patients with seasonal influenza vaccine in 2011/12. The findings and recommendations have implications not just for pharmacists but for the health sector generally, including other healthcare professionals who are also involved in vaccinations. The PSI Council has set in place a number of measures to give effect to the recommendations contained in the Risk Review Group's report that are within the jurisdiction of the PSI in advance of the commencement of the 2012-13 Winter Influenza Season.

With regard to the training, the PSI Council has revised and updated the accreditation standards for Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Training Programmes for pharmacists to take account of recommendations in the Risk Review Group's Report and to reflect evolving thinking on formal learning and recent Council decisions, including the establishment in March 2012 of the Core Competency Framework for Pharmacists. The Council of the PSI has also agreed that all pharmacists who were trained for the purposes of the 2011-12 Winter Influenza Season must undertake a course of refresher training if they wish to provide a vaccination service to the public for the Winter 2012-13 season.

Almost 1500 pharmacists successfully completed the training programme provided last year which was approved by the PSI Council on the basis of the accreditation of that training programme by the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Trinity College Dublin. This accreditation was valid until 31st August 2012, therefore a new accreditation process must be put in place for this season. The recommendations of the Risk Review Group's report have also been taken into account and it is important to build on the experiences of last year and ensure that pharmacists are both competent and confident to provide a potentially expanded service this year. In any event, every year there are likely to be new aspects where pharmacists, as with any other healthcare professional, will need to refresh or increase their knowledge and skills.

As this is refresher training to build on last year's skills development, the refresher training will focus on enhancing practical techniques, including administration of vaccine and adrenaline to all patient cohorts, and ensuring pharmacists are confident and prepared for fuller participation in this year's campaign, as pharmacists will be starting to offer the service much earlier than last year and, due to greater public awareness, to a potentially greatly expanded patient cohort. In addition, there will a valuable element of peer-supported learning where pharmacists can share and learn from each other's experiences in establishing and implementing a vaccination service in a pharmacy. It is intended that much background or required preparatory work could be done, potentially in an online environment, so that the ‘live' session can focus on the practical skills, peer-learning and reflection on integrating the vaccine service into the pharmacy's practice.

Any pharmacist who did not undertake training last year will have to complete a full training programme approved by the PSI Council. Training provider(s) will, in the coming weeks, be working with an accrediting body approved by the PSI to develop courses of training (both refresher and full programmes) which meet the required standards. Council has also put in place a process to identify an accrediting body for the purposes of undertaking a review of seasonal influenza vaccination training programme(s) for pharmacists with a view to accrediting such programme(s) for the 2012-13 Winter Influenza Season. This process is close to completion and it is expected that the decision to designate an accrediting body will be made by the PSI over the coming days.

The PSI has also revised its guidance for pharmacists on the provision of a vaccination service for the 2012-2013 season. The guidance has been edited and revised in line with the recommendations of the Risk Review Group's report and updated to more fully the reflect the legislative position that permit pharmacists to vaccinate all persons, subject to fulfilling certain required conditions, and to include reference to the importance of having systems in place to deal with issues such as error reporting and infection control. This revised guidance will also inform the content to be delivered as part of the new and the refresher courses of training. In order to ensure a full vaccination service to the public in community pharmacies, the PSI Council has prioritised the development, accreditation and delivery of training to those registered pharmacists who were trained for the 2011-12 winter flu season.

The Risk Review Group's findings support initiatives to maximise seasonal influenza vaccination uptake. It has concluded that measures to increase uptake should be strongly encouraged and facilitated, including the increased accessibility provided through pharmacist participation. Vaccinations by pharmacists will again be happening this year and this report is a valuable learning tool in this process for all stakeholders.