Community pharmacists convened an emergency meeting of contractors last night as the sector sits on the cusp of critical medicine shortages. 

Community Pharmacy NI warned this week that widespread shortages are anticipated affecting drugs used to treat common conditions, including blood pressure, mental health, osteoporosis, and prostate conditions. 

The meeting comes ahead of an emergency summit with MLAs at Stormont next Tuesday.

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI said:

“Last night’s meeting served to take stock of the very real sense of alarm that exists among community pharmacists right across Northern Ireland. The supply line of medicines from suppliers to pharmacists is on the verge of being completely severed. Already we’re seeing shortages on around 150 medicines, equating to 1000 packs per pharmacy per month, as pharmacists simply cannot keep up with the short supplies and astronomical prices without adequate remuneration from the Department of Health.

“The community pharmacy network needs urgent support at this time and the measures outlined by the Department of Health fall far short of what is needed. These supply issues come at a time when the community pharmacy network is facing an unworkable £20-30 million deficit in its funding this year and the Department’s patently insufficient ‘support package’ of £5.3m falls considerably short to ensure the safe provision of services and medicines to patients throughout the winter ahead.

Peter Rice, Chair of Community Pharmacy NI

Peter Rice, Chair of Community Pharmacy NI said:

“For months, community pharmacists have been warning the Department of an impending crisis, and unfortunately, without the right response in place, that crisis is now here. We heard last night that community pharmacists are bracing themselves for further shortages and the impacts upon patient health and wellbeing this will inevitably cause.

“From my own experience, I’m having to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to source medicines, taking me away from time which should be spent looking after patients. In many instances, I’m just not able to keep up with skyrocketing prices which, only months ago, cost a fraction of what they do now. As this meeting showed, this is an experience shared by virtually all my colleagues the length and breadth of Northern Ireland and it cannot be left to continue.

“Without assistance, I feel totally powerless at preventing a worsening of the situation for my patients. This is causing stress and uncertainty amongst our teams. I support in full the sector’s calls for an immediate and substantial injection of funding to maintain the safe supply of medicines this winter. In relation to the Department’s stated £5.3m package this includes almost £5m of a loan which we will have to pay back. From the network’s perspective, that’s not a support package, that’s a stay of execution”.

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