Community Pharmacy NI hails workforce as it marks two years since pandemic began

The representative body for community pharmacy owners across Northern Ireland has said that the work of pharmacy teams made a seismic difference to the Covid-19 response over the past two years.

Community Pharmacy NI has hailed the resilience and adaptability of the workforce as over 330,000 Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered including almost150,000 booster vaccines.

Pharmacies also increased provisions with the Pharmacy First service by which  patients could get medical advice and treatment directly from their local pharmacies for a number of everyday health conditions. The Emergency Supply of Medicines service was also introduced which meant patients could access vital medicines when they were unable to obtain a prescription.

In more recent times, community pharmacies became the leading provider of Lateral Flow Tests with over one million kits delivered to the public across Northern Ireland.

Community pharmacies also continued to provide their central role of the safe supply of medicines to patients with over one million dispensing episodes weekly.

Community Pharmacy NI are calling on the Department of Health to continue to recognise the vast contribution of the community pharmacy network over the past two years and accelerate  workforce planning and investment strategies that will ensure that this work can continue and be developed further in the post-pandemic era.

Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene said:

The last two years has demonstrated that community pharmacy can go beyond day-to-day services to support the changing health and wellbeing needs of our population. Through the flexibility and adaptability of the sector, we have seen it taking on increased patient demands and providing additional services. I think it is hugely important that the Department of Health seeks to build upon the success to date and ensures that community pharmacy remains an integral part of the health and social care family going forward.

The community pharmacy network has worked tremendously hard to ensure that patients have been able to continue to receive services, uninterrupted by the pressures of the pandemic. Staff have shown flexibility and adaptability under extreme pressure.

Community pharmacy needs to be commissioned in a way that reflects increased responsibilities and demands. Emerging from the pandemic, more and more patients will look to their local community pharmacist first, as they have done during the last two years. It is imperative that we support community pharmacies to continue vital work in our communities.

Now is the time to maximize on the possibilities that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented and ensure that community pharmacy is utilized effectively and inclusively in transformation of the health service. We have seen the many benefits – accessibility, adaptability, community-facing care, as well as a range of new and additional services – I hope we are able to continue with this in the time ahead.

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