A number of pharmacies in Northern Ireland have been forced to withdraw their monitored dosage system (MDS) service for new patients from December because government funding for the sector falls “far below what is required to continue to safely provide” pharmacy services, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) said.
Last month, Northern Ireland's Department of Health announced that community pharmacies will receive an additional £11.1 million in funding up to March 2020, but CPNI stressed that the cost of providing pharmacy services is currently under-funded “by at least £20m”.
Commenting on the decision to scrap medicines trays for new patients, CPNI chief executive Gerard Greene stressed that it is “alarming that community pharmacists feel prompted to withdraw a service. Particularly one that helps so many patients with their medicines”.
“Pharmacists now fear that taking on new patients would put both new and existing patients at risk,” he added.
“The withdrawal of the MDS service to new patients is a grassroots action by community pharmacists,” CPNI told C+D this morning (December 4).
“The sense we’re getting is the vast majority of community pharmacies [are doing this] and that it’s right across Northern Ireland.”
“Not a risk we’re willing to take”
In a statement published last week (November 29), Mark Hunter, pharmacist at Eden Pharmacy in Belfast said the pharmacy’s decision to withdraw the MDS service “has been an extremely difficult one for us to make”.
“But as health professionals, we must take difficult choices when we believe patient safety is at risk.
“As [funding] cuts deepen in our sector, pharmacists are working longer hours and with fewer staff, so we no longer have the time or resource to provide this service to new patients safely,” he added.
“The idea that someone could be put at risk by a pharmacist under pressure is not a risk we are willing to take.”
Existing MDS patients are not affected, but Mr Hunter stressed that he could not guarantee that in the long term.
Last month, Mr Greene told C+D that the “sustained funding reductions” could trigger a “snowball” of pharmacy closures. Watch the video below to find out the factors contributing to the community pharmacy crisis in Northern Ireland.