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Pharmacies in Northern Ireland halt unfunded medicines adherence service for new patients

Community pharmacies in Northern Ireland have decided to stop offering an unfunded medicine adherence service to new patients from next month, CPNI has announced.

An overwhelming majority of contractors voted to pause the service at a meeting last week, citing “mounting” workforce pressures and a lack of investment, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) said in a statement yesterday (November 22).

Pharmacies currently offer this service to around 37,000 patients in the country on a goodwill basis – without funding from the Department of Health (DoH), CPNI added.

Contractors expressed their concerns about their ability to continue offering the non-commissioned service, which CPNI said involves “an in-depth pharmacist consultation, continuous monitoring, medicines provision in a specialised container, and regular and ongoing collaboration between a patient, their family, and the pharmacist”.

Consequently, they agreed to pause the service to new patients from December 1, to ensure they can continue to safely deliver other commissioned services such as COVID-19 vaccinations.

 

Decision “not taken lightly”

 

CPNI CEO Gerard Greene said the decision was “not taken lightly”.

“We are now in a position that no community pharmacist wants to be in, but continuing to accept new patients while managing an already demanding workload, coupled with severe workforce shortages, would put both patient safety and commissioned pharmacy services at risk,” Mr Greene added.

Pharmacists want to continue to offer this service if it is commissioned and “appropriately funded” by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), he said.

C+D has approached the HSCB for comment.

 

More support from DoH needed

 

CPNI chair Peter Rice, who is a pharmacist at the McKenzie’s Pharmacy group, said that new patients and families regularly approach pharmacies to avail themselves of the medicine adherence service.

“Without the support from the DoH to do this, we have to protect core services until a solution can be found,” he said.

A spokesperson from the DoH told C+D today (November 23) that it is working with both the HSCB and CPNI to agree on a three-year commissioning plan and “build on the considerable investment in community pharmacy services during the past two years”.

The deal will also recognise the “important role of community pharmacy teams in supporting their patients to manage their medicines in the community”, the spokesperson added.

“The DoH’s top priority remains the health and wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland, and the public can be assured that, if needed, steps will be taken to mitigate the impact of this decision on patient safety and care,” they said. 

 

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