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Northern Ireland CPhO encourages patients to use Pharmacy First service

The chief pharmaceutical officer in Northern Ireland has visited a community pharmacy to encourage the use of the Pharmacy First service, which helps patients manage common conditions.

Cathy Harrison spoke to staff and patients at MediCare’s Tramway Pharmacy in Belfast about the service, which offers a minor ailments consultation with a pharmacist – virtually, by phone, or face to face.

While there, Ms Harrison recorded a video in which she promoted a range of services offered by pharmacies in Northern Ireland, including smoking cessation and cancer awareness campaigns as well as COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.

Read more: Northern Ireland injects £8m into pharmacy medicines adherence service

The Pharmacy First Service in Northern Ireland was launched publicly in March this year, replacing the previous minor ailments service that had been in place for many years.

A total of 13 conditions are included in the service including head lice, athlete’s foot, haemorrhoids, and mouth ulcers and patients can be referred from GP practices or through self-referral.

Ms Harrison noted that some pharmacies in Northern Ireland are also managing patients with urinary tract infections.


Ask Your Pharmacist campaign


The visit was part of the annual Ask Your Pharmacist campaign week, which ends today (November 7), with a focus this year on raising awareness of NHS commissioned services available in community pharmacy.

A survey by the National Pharmacy Association, ahead of the awareness campaign, found that many people are unaware of some of the NHS services they could access at their pharmacy.

In England, 51% of respondents said they “believed it to be true that GPs can formally refer patients for same-day clinical advice from their local pharmacist about minor ailments”, as now happens with the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service.

There was more awareness of flu vaccinations but only 56% of respondents believed that pharmacies in England offer consultations for those who are prescribed a new medicine for a long-term condition, despite the new medicine service being available since 2011.

Read more: One in two unaware of pharmacy blood pressure services, NPA finds

Ms Harrison said community pharmacies were “one of the front doors to the health service”, with over 500 outlets located across Northern Ireland. 

“In our community pharmacies, you can always rely on friendly staff, medicines expertise, and walk-in access to face-to-face advice,” she said.

MediCare’s managing director, Michael Guerin said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the CPhO to one of our branches. She is very engaged with the community pharmacy sector and it’s good that the general public gets to hear Cathy’s very clear endorsement of the vital work that pharmacies across Northern Ireland do.”

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