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£13m funding boost announced for Northern Irish pharmacies

The extra funding is to help pharmacies meet the needs of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The extra funding is to help pharmacies meet the needs of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This funding for community pharmacy in Northern Ireland is in addition to existing funding and will be available until March 2021, health minister Robin Swann said yesterday.

Pharmacies in Northern Ireland will receive the £13.25 million on top of the “recurring financial envelope” of £112.4m for 2020/21. This adds to a £10.5m funding boost announced in March, of which £4m fell into the 2019/20 financial year, and £6.5m into the 2020/21 financial year. A further £1m for the sector was provided in April, to cover costs including Easter rotas.  

The funding, announced yesterday (July 1) will ensure that – along with core dispensing duties – community pharmacies can start to provide additional services to “meet the needs of patients during the pandemic period” from this month, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland (DoH) said.

These include the continuation of the emergency supply service, which started in “phase one of the pandemic” and the reinstatement of smoking cessation and opiate dependence services, which were put on hold at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, an “enhanced on-call palliative care service will be provided and a new service developed for care homes”, the DoH said.

Pharmacies will also provide “targeted advice and signposting for mental and physical health promotion”, and offer consultations with a pharmacist for input and treatment for common conditions as part of a “pharmacy first” initiative – similar to the Pharmacy First initiative in Scotland

Finally, a medicines delivery service will be developed for vulnerable patients.

"Historical challenges"

Mr Swann said he was  “very pleased to be able to announce this investment in community pharmacy, which has responded promptly and professionally to the COVID-19 emergency response”.

“I fully understand the historical challenges faced by the sector. This agreement provides a firm foundation that will enable community pharmacy to play a full part in the future of health and social care,” he added.

“This is the first time that an agreement on the commissioning and funding of community pharmacy has been reached in Northern Ireland and I recognise all the hard work that has brought us here today,” Mr Swann said.

Funding is move towards the future

Cathy Harrison, chief pharmaceutical officer for Northern Ireland, said the funding package shows that the government is “backing” community pharmacy teams as it continues to work through the “uncertainty of the coming months and towards a more positive future.”

Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland said the organisation “welcomes the announcement”, and that the funding “signals a move forward for community pharmacy as a key service in the new post-COVID  health and social care system, supporting important service provision to patients”.

“It is a clear recognition of the critical role of the sector, not only in the safe supply of medicines but as the fabric that holds local communities together in times of crisis,” Mr Greene added.

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