Community pharmacists in Northern Ireland are to work alongside GPs in a multimillion scheme unveiled on 7 December 2015.
Some £2.6m is to be invested in the initiative in 2016, increasing to £14m by 2020–2021 in a five-year plan, says Northern Ireland Assembly health minister Simon Hamilton.
Bringing community pharmacists into the practice primary healthcare team will take pressure off GPs, help patients get the best out of their medicines and cut down on the number of adverse incidents associated with medication, Hamilton says. It will also help with delivering the medicines optimisation quality framework, he adds.
“With the growth in our elderly population and more people living with multiple conditions, prescribing medications is becoming increasingly complex,” he says.
“We have a great resource in our pharmacists whom we want to better utilise to work directly alongside GPs and nurses. Not only will this approach deliver a better service for patients, it is also common sense to ensure we make the most effective use of the skills and experience we have in health and social care.”
The National Pharmacy Association, which represents community pharmacists, welcomed the principle of healthcare professionals working together but criticised the Assembly for failing to recognise the existing potential of existing pharmacy services. It pointed out that the minor ailments service is currently restricted to ten conditions and the number of medicines use reviews has also been capped.
The decision to bring community pharmacists into GP surgeries follows a similar initiative being piloted in England.