Community Pharmacy is ‘Fourth Emergency Service’ and must be protected says trade body chief
The trade body for retailers in NI, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, has said they fear the threat of some community pharmacies closing will have a devastating impact on the patients and communities they serve.
Speaking after meeting with Community Pharmacy NI – the representative body of local chemists – Aodhán Connolly, Director of the NI Retail Consortium, said that community pharmacists should be regarded as the Fourth Emergency Service and that the crisis created by under-funding from the Department of Health needs to be urgently addressed.
Prior to the collapse of the NI Assembly, the last Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, outlined a commitment to continue to develop and resource community pharmacy-based initiatives over the next 10 years. However, this is now in jeopardy due to the fact that the Department of Health is under-funding the cost of providing community pharmacy services by at least £20m.
This funding shortfall has been compounded in recent months by unprecedented generic medicines shortages leaving community pharmacists and their staff with a daily struggle to find many of the medicines needed by their patients. When they do source the items required, they can find themselves paying more than ten times the usual price, all without knowing if they will be fully reimbursed.
Aodhán Connolly, Director of the NI Retail Consortium said: “Community pharmacy is essential in Northern Ireland and is tantamount to a fourth emergency service especially in rural areas where they take pressure off the already strained health service.
“At a time when other areas such as Scotland and Wales, are innovating and investing in their community pharmacies, we are in grave danger of underfunding a service that makes a tangible difference to our quality of life.”
Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy NI added: “This is an extremely difficult period for community pharmacy.
“We are now coming to a critical point when some pharmacists are being forced to make tough decisions which may force them to close causing job losses across Northern Ireland and have a hugely negative impact on patients and customers.
“We welcome the support of the NI Retail Consortium. Many of their members are affected by this crisis and the impact that it is having and are fully aware of how bad the situation has become.”
“We cannot afford more vacant units on the high street, especially those of the local pharmacist who provides much needed healthcare in a community setting.
“In fact, community pharmacy has an extremely important role in driving footfall for other forms of retail and services and should not be overlooked in the other parts that they play – socially and economically.”
Community pharmacies in Northern Ireland are currently under sustained attack due to:
- Prolonged Government underfunding;
- Additional funding cuts made in 2017/18;
- Funding model which sees many medicines dispensed at a loss;
- Medicine shortages;
- Rising demand;
- Workforce crisis;
- Rising incidence of violent crime.