Northern Ireland’s most prestigious pharmacy awards ceremony – the Pharmacy in Focus Awards – have once again shown the terrific role that the profession can play in local healthcare.

Pharmacists from across the province gathered in the Grand Ballroom at Crowne Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge to showcase the work that community pharmacies are doing on a daily basis to.

This year saw Belleek pharmacist, Maria McGuinness, walk away with the coveted Pharmacist of the Year Award (Supported by Teva UK Ltd) for her outstanding work in the community. Maria was actually nominated by one of her patients, who had contacted UCA-NI because she was so overwhelmed by the care and attention that Maria had given her during a difficult time.

Over in Fivemiletown, meanwhile, McKeevers Chemist, picked up the equally prestigious Community Pharmacy of the Year Award (Supported by Sangers AAH).

Not to be outdone, neighbouring Tyrone also picked up two of the pharmacy ‘Oscars’, with Anne Hand from Boots UK in Dungannon the worthy recipient of the Medicines Counter Assistant Award (Supported by Numark) and Bradleys Pharmacy, Omagh, the equally worthy recipients of the Customer Service (4+ pharmacies) Award (Supported by Pharmsmart) .

County Down was represented by a unique initiative at Maghaberry Pharmacy, which received the Innovation in Pharmacy Practice Award (Supported by McLernons) thanks to its ground-breaking delivery service. With no GP practice in the village, the pharmacy collects from the five surgeries that encircle the village – Lisburn, Aghalee, Crumlin/Glenavy, Moira and Hillsborough – and logistics operator, Aubrey Penney, delivering to patients on his electric bike!

Mid and East Antrim community pharmacies are no strangers to winning awards and this year’s event proved to be no exception.Portglenone’s Bannside Pharmacy team took to the stage to pick up the Customer Service (1-3 pharmacies) Award (Supported by Ethypharm) for its outstanding service to the community, while pharmacist, Jonathan Lloyd, had to take to the stage not once but twice after his company – The Health Centre Pharmacy Carrickfergus – picked up both the Excellence in Pharmacy Practice (Supported by VSL#3 the highly concentrated poly-biotic food supplement) and Training and Business Development Awards (Supported by Alliance Healthcare), thanks to an innovative partnership with the Mid & East Antrim Agewell Partnership.

The Pharmacy in Focus Awards are all about excellence and, this year, one company made one of its pharmacies a true ‘centre of excellence’. Northern Pharmacies Ltd added to its celebrations of its fiftieth year in business by picking up the Working in Partnership Award (Supported by Bestway Medhub & Wardles) for having created the new role of community palliative care pharmacist. The company – in conjunction with the Marie Curie Hospice – now employs a pharmacist, who splits his time between the company’s Holywood branch – Sweeney’s Pharmacy – and the hospice. A terrific initiative – and one that has brought comfort and support to palliative care patients across North Down and beyond.

The ceremony ended with the presentation of the special merit award for Outstanding Contribution to Pharmacy (Supported by EMIS Health). This year saw Belfast pharmacist, Dr Terry Maguire, present the accolade to Professor Mike Mawhinney, whose expertise in the regulation of medicines has been recognised both nationally and internationally.

‘It is evident from talking to those whom Professor Mawhinney encounters on a daily basis,’ Dr Terry Maguire said in his citation, ‘how much he is universally respected. He sets high standards for the practice of pharmacy and has a determination to ensure that poor practice does not put patients or the public at risk, nor bring the profession of pharmacy into disrepute. However, many speak of the dignity that he shows to those pharmacists that he unfortunately has to take through the regulatory system in his role. His high level of integrity is complemented by a thoughtful, empathetic, approachable, supportive and encouraging manner.’

‘With a distinguished career that has had such a positive impact on the professional lives of so many, it is fitting that Professor Mike Mawhinney’s unique contribution is recognised by the Outstanding Contribution to Pharmacy Award.’

A record number of award entries was received this year from all over Northern Ireland, with accolades being handed out across nine categories: Customer Service (1-3 pharmacies), Customer Service (4+ pharmacies), Innovation in Community Pharmacy Practice, Medicines Counter Assistant, Training and Business Development, Pharmacist of the Year, Working in Partnership, Excellence in Community Pharmacy and Community Pharmacy of the Year.

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