Local pharmacists brief MLAs on crisis in community pharmacy

Local elected representatives Emma Sheerin MLA, Linda Dillon MLA and Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill MLA visited O’Kane’s Pharmacy in Draperstown to learn about the pressures facing community pharmacists across Northern Ireland.

Laurence O’Kane and community pharmacists Aideen Shaw and Aine Laverty discussed with MLAs their desire as health professionals to provide additional services for the community and take pressure of the health service if workforce, workload and funding issues were addressed.

Community pharmacists have long campaigned for the Department of Health to address the recurrent underfunding of the community pharmacy sector and support local pharmacists in their efforts to continue delivering safe services to patients and grapple with rising costs.

The Mid-Ulster MLAs were also briefed by Community Pharmacy NI Chief Executive Gerard Greene who said that CPNI is eager to work with the Department to tackle the issues impacting the sector and the urgent need for stability to build the service going forward.

Michelle O’Neill, Vice President, Sinn Féin, said:

“It has been great to visit such a vibrant community pharmacy, to listen to their concerns, see first-hand the difference they make in the lives of everyone who walks through their doors, and hear about their hopes for the future of community pharmacy. There is no doubt that pharmacies across the north are at crisis point. We desperately need to see the return of a functioning Executive to address the serious underfunding and pressures felt by the entire network”.

During the visit, Laurence O’Kane said:

“In my 37 years working as a pharmacist, I have not experienced such profound difficulties in the community pharmacy sector as those we are facing now. We are all trying to deal with workforce issues, medicines shortages, workload pressures and rising costs all while working to ensure that we continue to provide safe services for patients. I am confident that community pharmacy can do more to help alleviate pressures on the health service. As more recently qualified pharmacists, Aideen and Aine are keen to use the knowledge and clinical skills they have to help manage patients in their local community. If we were properly resourced, we would be in a position to offer more clinical services which would allow patients to see us first without the need to visit their GP.

It has been great to have our local elected representatives here today to listen to our concerns. It is my hope that they have been encouraged to work towards turning all of this potential into a reality”.

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy NI, added:

“The value of community pharmacy and the contribution it makes to local communities and the health service can’t be underestimated. Everyday community pharmacy teams see, treat, and manage patients with a range of health conditions. These local and often timely interventions help to achieve better patient outcomes and alleviate pressures across the wider health and social care system.

“We are clear that community pharmacy can do more with the right level of funding and while we have made our points to the Department, it was extremely helpful to be able to brief MLAs on these issues, especially the First Minister Designate as we all look towards the return of Stormont. There is a long way to go, but with the right political will and support I believe we can unleash the potential of community pharmacy and transform the way healthcare in the community is delivered”.

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