A government review of health and social care in Northern Ireland has recommending a stronger role for pharmacy in community health promotion and service provision.
The review, unveiled by the minister for health Edwin Poots on December 13 this year, has set out 99 recommendations to improve the delivery of healthcare in Northern Ireland, with an emphasis on shifting provision from secondary to primary care.
Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the health minister said the proposals set out in Transforming Your Care, A Review of Health and Social Care, would mean "a significant shift from provision of services in hospitals to provision of services in the community".
As well as an expanded role for community pharmacy in health promotion, the review calls for a greater role for the sector in medication management, the delivery of care at home, and in the reduction of hospital waiting times for non-emergency operations.
Mimi Lau, Numark's director of pharmacy services, welcomed the proposals, saying: "We have been shocked in the past when pharmacy has been excluded or only mentioned in passing in this type of report. So it is refreshing that pharmacy's role was acknowledged within the review."
She warned, however, that the changes could only be effective if pharmacy was given a secure future in Northern Ireland. Industry leaders had expressed concerns over pharmacy funding in Northern Ireland after it was cut by a third earlier this year - a decision that is currently being considered in a High Court judicial review.
"If the government is serious about these changes it needs to stop beating pharmacy up and see it as an effective healthcare partner," she said. "Given the minister has [also] indicated that he wants to close 100 pharmacies, this does not bode well."