The Department of Health in Northern Ireland (NI) is to undertake an emergency review of community pharmacy services, in response to what it says are “ongoing pressures facing the sector”.
In a statement published on 18 November 2022, the Department of Health said the review would “aim to define the services that can be reliably delivered this winter and will provide certainty to the public and the health and social care system”.
Community pharmacists in NI have warned of the impact of rising medicine costs, as well as medicines shortages, with Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) saying in October 2022 that this could lead to pharmacies “being unable to supply important prescription medicines to patients”.
The Department of Health and CPNI have agreed a three-year commissioning plan for 2022–2025, which will include “a dedicated work programme providing community pharmacies with the potential to deliver new health and social care services worth £7m, such as a ‘Pharmacy First’ service for common conditions, as well as an additional £3.5m for vaccination services”, the statement said.
The Department of Health also said it had offered, for 2022/2023, “a further financial package worth over £5.3m in value”, which was currently being implemented.
On 25 October 2022, an emergency meeting was held with a cross-party group of MLAs to discuss the crisis in the sector.
In a statement published after the meeting, CPNI said that MLAs were told that “74% of pharmacists were spending between one to three hours per day sourcing medicines, with shortages already on approximately 1,000 medicine packs per pharmacy per month”.
In the statement, Gerard Greene, chief executive of CPNI, said: “The department’s proposed £5.3m falls far short of what is needed at this time to enable the service to be maintained and for pharmacies to be able to buy the medicines being prescribed from wholesalers.”