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NI pharmacies get £13m funding boost for Covid services

Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland chief Gerard Greene

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann has announced £13.25m in funding for community pharmacies to help them provide additional services during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Department of Health said the funding would help guarantee that all pharmacies can continue to provide their core dispensing service, as well as helping them offer additional services from July including:

  • The continuation of an emergency supply service that began earlier in the crisis
  • Smoking cessation and opiate substitution services, which were suspended because of the crisis, are to recommence
  • An ‘enhanced’ on-call palliative care service will be provided, as well as a new care home service
  • A ‘Pharmacy First’ service for minor ailments
  • A medicines delivery service for vulnerable groups
  • Providing advice and signposting to promote physical and mental health.

The funding is being made available up to March 2021, and follows a previous £7.5m investment to help pharmacies keep their doors open during the pandemic.  

Financial uncertainty

Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland – which earlier in the year threatened industrial action over an ongoing funding dispute with the Department of Health – welcomed the new investment and said it would “help sustain and expand transformative services” while helping to combat workforce pressures and financial uncertainty.

CPNI chief Gerard Greene said the allocation was a “clear recognition of the critical role of the sector” in a time of crisis and would enable pharmacies “to address immediate pressures and help with the challenges of the post-Covid health service”.

Praising Mr Swann’s efforts as health minister, Mr Greene said: “Despite only being in post as health minister since the return of the Assembly earlier this year, he has listened and prioritised community pharmacy.”

Minister Swann said he “fully understands the historical challenges faced by the sector, adding: “This is the first time that an agreement on the commissioning and funding of community pharmacy has been reached in Northern Ireland.

“I welcome the new approach to collaborative working which I believe will be beneficial for the Health and Social Care Board, pharmacies and all those who use their services.”

Northern Ireland’s chief pharmaceutical officer Cathy Harrison said: “Every day our community pharmacy staff work with the utmost professionalism on the frontline of the HSC, providing accessible services for the public.

"This agreement shows that we are backing our community pharmacy teams as we continue to work through the uncertainty of the coming months and towards a more positive future.”

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