Reflecting on the one-year anniversary of Northern Ireland entering into lockdown

Reflecting on the one-year anniversary of Northern Ireland entering into lockdown on 23 March 2020, CEO of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene said:

Over the course of the past year, the pandemic has placed community pharmacy front and centre in the fight against Covid-19 within our communities. From the very beginning our network stepped up, adjusted to a fast-moving situation, and made sure they could be there for communities in need.

“Overnight, community pharmacies and services were adapted to meet new demands including social distancing measures and protective screens. We adjusted working hours to account for long queues of anxious patients and ensure everyone who needed us could access the pharmacy. Many pharmacies split teams into bubbles to make sure no pharmacy had to close because of staff contracting Covid -19. Pharmacy footfall increased fourfold in the early months of the pandemic with an average of 40,000 more people per week and pharmacists working 70-hour weeks to meet this demand.

“The defining characteristic shown by our community pharmacy teams has been resilience. As medical professionals, they understood the gravity of the virus and were determined to protect as many members of their communities from Covid-19. As other medical facilities closed their doors, pharmacies remained open to ensure the safe supply of medicines and provide sound clinical advice becoming the first port of call for anyone managing a lifelong condition or experiencing illness.

“The adaptability of the community pharmacy network was further highlighted in its role in the wider health response to Covid-19. Through expanded services, including the Emergency Supply Service and the Pharmacy First Programme, pharmacies were able to take some of the pressure of other health services that needed to focus on the most unwell in our society Pharmacies also introduced a new flu vaccination service initially to include health care workers and later expanded to be offered to all those over 50.

“The pandemic has changed the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland. Nobody could have foreseen the past year. Time is now needed for reflection on what has happened and the lessons learned that can be taken forward as we try to build back and recover. The Covid-19 vaccination programme is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am proud that community pharmacies will be delivering the vaccine to their communities in the coming weeks.

“This week, as we reflect, we recognise the incredible work of the community pharmacy network over the past year, we remember the lives that we have lost, and pay tribute to all our health colleagues who have fought alongside us to protect our communities and save lives.”

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