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Northern Ireland launches pharmacy sore throat and expanded UTI services

Northern Ireland will spend nearly £700,000 to roll out two pharmacy services to prepare for the coming winter, the government has announced.

Northern Ireland will expand its uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI) service to its entire pharmacy service as part of the country’s 2023/24 winter preparedness plan, the Department of Health (DoH) announced last week (October 4).

The UTI service for women aged 16-64 was previously being piloted at 62 pharmacies but will be rolled out to the “more than 500” community pharmacies that make up Northern Ireland’s network through a £410,000 investment, it said.

Read more: Emergency review of community pharmacy services in Northern Ireland announced

The country will also pilot a new “test and treat” service for sore throats in 40 pharmacies, with £265,000 allocated, it added.

The NI government said that it anticipates pharmacies will deliver 12,000 consultations for the UTI service and around 8,000 for the sore throat service “over the winter period”.

Both services form part of the country’s Pharmacy First initiative.


Winter preparedness plan


Published last week (October 4), Northern Ireland’s winter preparedness plan puts community pharmacy at the forefront of primary care, recommending that people “first consider advice and guidance” from their pharmacy when they “feel unwell”.

According to the plan, the government aims to have “the majority” of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations finished by the end of this month, after the country’s vaccination programmes began on September 18.

Read more: Peer calls on UK government to curb ‘developing crisis’ for NI pharmacies

Vaccinations will be administered by GPs, community pharmacies and hospital-led clinics, with GPs “expected” to deliver “the majority”, it said.

The plan also states that care homes in Northern Ireland are “paired” with a community pharmacy to “ensure that residents and staff are offered both [COVID-19 and flu] vaccinations”.

Read more: Northern Ireland CPhO encourages patients to use Pharmacy First service

And it added that “over 500” community pharmacies will also participate in “Living Well” health promotion campaigns throughout the winter, including a “keeping antibiotics working” campaign in October and November.

DoH permanent secretary Peter May said that the new winter plan will “undoubtedly help” to ease “severe” healthcare pressures in Northern Ireland and was made despite “severe budgetary constraints” facing the country.

Read more: Pharmacy leaders 'cautiously' welcome new Northern Ireland Brexit deal

In November, a senior peer warned that lives would be at risk if a “swift resolution” to Northern Ireland’s community pharmacy funding crisis could not be found.

It followed the country’s DoH launching an emergency review into community pharmacy services in the country earlier the same month.

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