Northern Ireland expands pharmacy services despite funding deadlock
Business Northern Ireland pharmacies have secured more services despite an ongoing disagreement over funding, which has left them in a contractual “no man’s land”.
Northern Ireland pharmacies have secured more services despite an ongoing disagreement over funding that has left them in a contractual "no man's land".
Contractors will now offer a prescription intervention service, which aims to reduce waste and "improve the clinical and cost effectiveness of prescribed medicines", following the introduction of the scheme in October by the Health and Social Care Board. Four new conditions have also been added to the minor ailments service.
But, although pharmacy leaders hailed the development as "good news" for pharmacy, they stressed that it would not solve funding woes and called for a new, service-based contract.
"The politics are very difficult and we're in no man's land because of the contract issues" Terry Maguire Maguire's Pharmacy, Belfast
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Negotiations could prove difficult as next month will see the government appeal against the high court decision that it illegally implemented funding cuts, warned Terry Maguire, owner of Maguire's Pharmacy, Belfast.
"The politics are very difficult and we're in no man's land because of the contract issues," he told C+D. "There's awareness of the fact that the relationship [between the government and negotiators] needs to be a bit more positive on both sides, because a lot of damage has been done by this particular process."
Mr Maguire said he hoped to see a new contract negotiated with a stronger focus on services and "clear vision" for the pharmacy sector.
His hopes were echoed by Numark membership development manager for Northern Ireland Wayne Harrison. "The recent introduction of a new service along with the expansion of an old favourite [the minor ailments service] should provide some much-needed, timely good news for pharmacy contractors in Northern Ireland," he said.
But he pointed out that the new conditions eligible for the minor ailments service – cold sores, ear wax, mouth ulcers and oral thrush – would not necessarily drive many patients into pharmacies. "The select additions to the scheme do not appear to be as patient-focused as, say, the hayfever scheme, where pharmacy had access to many more patients suffering from this condition."
Despite the concerns, Mr Harrison stressed the services were "good news" at a "turbulent time" for community pharmacy in Northern Ireland. "Pharmacists are being given the opportunity to maximise medicines usage and minimise waste, while engaging with patients and saving taxpayers' money, and we should make the most of this opportunity," he urged.
And Gerard Green, chief executive of negotiating body Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, told C+D: "We are keen to develop [the minor ailments service] further and hopefully further conditions will be added next year."
Contractors will receive £10 per patient for the prescription intervention service, which will involve identifying unwanted medicines, ensuring the patients is taking the appropriate medicine dosage and proposing changing branded medicines to generics.
Will these new services help funding woes in Northern Ireland?