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Shock election may not derail new NI pharmacy contract

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Northern Ireland's new pharmacy contract is expected to be drafted by March 31

The Department of Health (DH) in Northern Ireland does "not anticipate” the health minister’s promotion will impact its ongoing pharmacy contract negotiations, C+D has learned.

The country’s health minister Michelle O’Neill was elected leader of the Sinn Féin party in the north on January 23 – just 10 days after announcing a new pharmacy contract would be drafted before April.

Ms O’Neill replaces Martin McGuinness, NI’s deputy first minister, whose shock resignation sparked an assembly election in the country, to be held on March 2.

A spokesperson for the DH confirmed to C+D today (February 1) that “Ms O’Neill will remain as health minister until the assembly election”.

“It is not anticipated that the election will have any impact on the community pharmacy contract negotiations,” they added.

Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) described the promise of a new contract as a “significant move”.

According to the CPNI website, contractors in the country are still operating under interim funding arrangements while the sector awaits the outcome of two reviews: the Cost of Services Inquiry (COSI) into pharmacy running costs and profits, and the ongoing Margins Survey, which aims to “establish what level of profit pharmacists are able to retain from the drugs they supply”.

The DH told C+D last month (January 18) that both reviews “will inform the overall financial envelope for community pharmacy services”. 

Ms O’Neill “has indicated her support for a commitment to develop new contractual arrangements by March 31”, the DH added at the time. 

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