The body that represents community pharmacy across Northern Ireland has said that thousands of extra patients per day are now presenting at community pharmacies across NI as a result of COVID-19.
Community Pharmacy NI has said that last week some pharmacies dispensed almost four times the amount of medication they normally would dispense in a week.
Community pharmacists are now urging the public to recognise the pressures on community pharmacy teams and to work with any of the new arrangements pharmacies are having to introduce in order to deal with the surge in patient and prescription requests.
The body is asking members of the public to understand that services may need to be restricted to prioritise those most in need as pharmacy teams manage supplies of medicines.
The body is also calling on the Department of Health to take urgent action to help the network to deal with the gravity of this situation.
Speaking after an emergency meeting of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene, Chief Executive said:
“There has been an incredible surge of thousands of patients per day going to local community pharmacies across NI to seek advice on COVID-19 type symptoms, or to obtain supplies of prescription medicines.
“This issue has been compounded by the fact that a lot of GP surgeries have closed to the public and this has had the effect of shifting additional pressures into local pharmacies.
“We are also seeing many people seeking to purchase supplies of over the counter medications such as paracetamol and other analgesic medications.
“The public should not stockpile medicines and they should be assured that pharmacies are working hard to manage the stock levels. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that medicines and prescriptions are not over-ordered. We must all think of each other to ensure that there are enough medicines for everyone and especially for those in our community who are most in need.
“We would also ask members of the public with COVID-19 type symptoms – that is a raised temperature or persistent new cough – not to come into a pharmacy and to self-isolate for seven days. This will avoid putting pharmacy staff and other patients at risk.
“If your symptoms worsen during your home isolation or you are no better after seven days, seek medical advice by telephone. If you have an underlying health condition and develop symptoms do let your GP know. This action will help protect others in your community while you are infectious.
“At this time, it is hugely important that we all work together to get through this health crisis. Pharmacies are trying to ensure that there is enough medicine for everyone, and the community pharmacy network is working with colleagues in primary care and the Department to ensure the service provides essential medicines to those who need them most.”