The public is being encouraged to ‘Ask Your Pharmacist’ as part of an awareness week on the value and importance of community pharmacy.

The initiative by the National Pharmacy Association, will highlight the important services provided by local pharmacies in our communities and the role community pharmacists play as part of the wider Health and Social Care family.

Community Pharmacy NI, the representative body for all community pharmacies across Northern Ireland, is reminding the public of the variety of services available at local pharmacies this winter and encouraging greater use of these services to take pressure off other parts of the health service during the second COVID wave.

The community pharmacy network has expanded its services in Northern Ireland to deal with the pandemic, including offering flu vaccines to all health and social care workers this winter and the resumption of the Minor Ailments and Pharmacy First Service.

Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene said:

Ask Your Pharmacist Week is a welcome opportunity for us all to take a step back and look at our health service and the hugely important role that is played on the ground by local community pharmacies, as part of our Health and Social Care family.

“This year we have seen the remarkable dedication and resilience of community pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland who have stepped up as leaders within health and social care.

“From the very beginning of the pandemic, our network came up with innovative ways to remain open and carry on with the high standard of care and support they offer in their local areas.

“A visit to a community pharmacy gives patients the opportunity to have a face-to-face consultation with a health professional at a time and location close to home, without the need for an appointment. This has proved to be vital in the midst of this pandemic.

“With many patients at home self-isolating or shielding, they can still have a face-to-face discussion with their pharmacist via a video call. We ask the public to speak to your local pharmacy for more details.

“As we approach the winter months, we expect to see another surge in patient numbers due to flu season and COVID, but community pharmacy remains open and ready to support our patients throughout this period and we are putting plans in place to deal with increased demand. Community Pharmacy will be here for everyone this winter.”

Brain Austin, a Community Pharmacist from Belfast also commented:

“From the earliest stages of the pandemic, community pharmacists were all too aware that we were the frontline of the health service and we did everything we could to keep our doors open for patients at that time. The crisis has highlighted the agility of our network and how much trust people place in their local community pharmacist.

“Our pharmacies changed overnight in many cases. New layouts were designed, Perspex screens erected, social distancing measures were implemented, and PPE became normal attire to ensure both public and staff safety so we could continue to do our job. We are now working through another wave of Covid.

“There is no doubt, this second wave of the pandemic, coupled with the expected winter pressures adds multiple layers of pressure to our pharmacy teams. However, with new service provisions we are ready for it and we are taking on even more responsibility to provide accessible and available healthcare within our communities.”

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