Community Pharmacy NI has welcomed a motion that was unanimously passed by Belfast City Council last night in response to the critical funding crisis facing local pharmacies.
The motion that was tabled by Alderman Sonia Copeland recognises the invaluable contribution that community pharmacies make to society and the serious level of underfunding in the sector.
Belfast City Council will also seek an urgent meeting between the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health, a delegation from the Council and representatives of the sector to discuss the funding crisis.
Despite an independent report that shows the total cost of running the community pharmacy service here is in the region of £130 - £136 million annually, the pharmacy network remains underfunded by at least £20 million per year.
The motion comes at a time when the Department’s funding announcement was deemed by Community Pharmacy NI to fall well short of what is required to save the service.
From 1 December, community pharmacies in Northern Ireland have been forced to stop offering Monitored Dosage Systems (medicine trays) to new patients because of safety fears caused by the Department of Health budget cuts.
The medicine trays are used by patients on a combination of drugs, for example the frail elderly and those living with complex, chronic conditions. Pharmacists now fear that taking on new patients would put both new and existing patients at risk.
Alderman Sonia Copeland, who brought the motion to Belfast City Council said:
“Community pharmacies provide vital services to society with 123,00 people on average visiting a community pharmacy each day. Despite the important role that they play in the health and wellbeing of the population, community pharmacies are facing a continuing underfunding of some £20 million per year.
“I was pleased to bring this motion to Council to recognise the important role that community pharmacies play and to highlight the serious issue of continued underfunding.
“We as a Council will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health along with representatives from the community pharmacy sector and will be making the case for additional funding for the vital services that they provide.”
Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI said:
“In recent weeks the Department of Health announced a funding package for community pharmacy that falls well below what is actually required to solve this crisis.
“The risk of pharmacy closures therefore remains, as does the risk of patients being left without access to many of the services and the drugs they need.
“I welcome the fact that local Councillors have brought this issue forward to Belfast City Council and Community Pharmacy NI welcomes the chance to engage with the Council further following this extremely important motion.”