Public encouraged to ‘Ask Your Pharmacist’ about services during awareness week

Community pharmacists from across Northern Ireland are encouraging the public to ‘Ask Your Pharmacist’ as part of an awareness raising week on the value and importance of our local community pharmacies.

The week, an initiative led by the National Pharmacy Association, is an opportunity to highlight the full range of services available through community pharmacy this winter, including Covid-19 vaccination, booster jabs and the winter flu vaccination programme.

The new Pharmacy First service will also launch this week, enabling patients to receive help from their local community pharmacist for everyday health conditions such as sore throat and the common cold. The objective of the service is to displace activity away from other parts of the health service, whilst making use of pharmacists’ clinical skills as part of an accessible community-based service.

Amid increasing pressures being felt across primary care, Community Pharmacy NI is reminding the public that community pharmacies, whilst not immune to their own pressures, are an essential community health asset and can take some of the strain off other parts of the health service.

Community Pharmacy NI has recently elected west Belfast pharmacist Peter Rice as its new Chair for the next two years.

Newly elected Chair of Community Pharmacy NI, Peter Rice said:

“Coming into the role of Chair at such a crucial time for the health service, I am pleased to be able to showcase the full range of services community pharmacy is able to provide to patients. Recent months have seen the sector pivot to become the leading facilitator of Covid-19 vaccinations in Northern Ireland. We recently surpassed the 153,000-vaccine doses milestone and are providing booster jabs as part of the next vaccination phase.”

“As primary care providers, we are acutely aware of local healthcare pressures and the difficulties some patients find in accessing parts of the health service. The Pharmacy First service presents a solution to this. Operating in community pharmacies across Northern Ireland, it will give patients access to a health professional close to home and at a convenient time.”

Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene said:

“At a pivotal time for our health service, ‘Ask Your Pharmacist Week’ is a really timely opportunity for us to highlight  the role community pharmacy is playing to reduce the bottlenecks we are seeing across primary care. We know that this winter will be difficult and access to many care providers is likely to worsen. Community pharmacy fully recognises these pressures and will work hard over the weeks and months to support our patients.

“This Ask Your Pharmacist Week we would like to remind our patients that our community pharmacy teams are there to help.”

Vincent Harkin from Harkin’ Pharmacy in Maghera said:

“All year round our community pharmacists have worked hard to support patients and provide help. As we move ahead into the autumn and winter, I would encourage the public to get behind the message of this year’s campaign: ‘Your local pharmacy can help’, especially with pharmacy providing a whole range of services, running alongside dispensing. We expect there to be additional flu and Covid-19 pressures in the time ahead, so it is really encouraging that the continuity of care is there, and community pharmacy will support patients throughout.”

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