Community pharmacists in Northern Ireland have voted overwhelmingly to stop providing medicines in compliance aids for new patients from the start of next month amid concerns that a lack of funding and increasing workforce pressures will make it harder for them to continue rolling out free services.
Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland said 97 per cent of pharmacists voted to close the medicine adherence service from December 1 during a meeting of contractors last week.
CPNI said they wanted to prioritise commissioned and essential services ahead of non-commissioned services that are delivered on “a goodwill basis” because of “mounting pressures” and a lack of “appropriate investment.”
As part of the medicine adherence service, pharmacists support patients to manage their medicines with a detailed consultation and regular monitoring and they provide medicines in a specialised container.
CPNI chief executive Gerard Greene (pictured) said pharmacists in the country needed to prioritise “core services” such as the dispensing of medicines and Covid vaccine and boosters jabs but insisted the decision to end the adherence service was not taken lightly.
“We are now in a position which no community pharmacist wants to be in but continuing to accept new patients whilst managing an already demanding workload, coupled with severe workforce shortages would put both patient safety and commissioned pharmacy services at risk,” he said.
“Community pharmacists are an essential part of the delivery of the adherence service, using their clinical skills at a community level to support patients in managing their medicines safely. They want to continue to support their patients but only via a service commissioned and appropriately funded by the Health and Social Care Board.”
Community pharmacist Peter Rice added: “As essential primary healthcare providers, it deeply concerns me that we have arrived at this point, but my staff are stretched extremely thinly, and we cannot continue to take-in new patients for the service without the appropriate resources in support.
“As part of this service, we have been assisting patients, often those who are elderly, to safely manage their medicines at home and in the community, reducing the need for patients to be transferred to other settings such as hospitals. It is worrying that by not commissioning this service, there could be additional and avoidable hospital pressures.
“We are continually approached by new patients and their families who want to avail of the medicines adherence service, and as healthcare providers we want to help. Without the support from the Department to do this, we have to protect core services until a solution can be found.”