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Pharmacists put their own money in to deal with ‘crisis’ in Northern Ireland

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Pharmacists put their own money in to deal with ‘crisis’ in Northern Ireland

The Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) board member David McCrea has warned pharmacy owners in the country have reached “crisis point” as they try to maintain a supply of medicines to patients by putting in their own money to keep their pharmacies running.

McCrea, who has run Dundela Pharmacy on Belmont Road in east Belfast for 30 years, told UTV that pharmacies continue to dispense at a loss and insisted the situation was “not sustainable.”

“We have to buy in the drugs, that's a cost to us and when we dispense them the Department reimburse us but the price that they're paying us doesn't cover the cost of the drugs in a lot of cases,” he said.

“There are pharmacists who are struggling to pay their wholesale bills and they're having to put in their own money to cover their costs to pay their bills and pay their staff. The bottom line is if we can't pay our wholesalers, the supply of medicines will stop.”

CPNI chief executive Gerard Greene told Stormont's Health Committee yesterday that it was now wrong for people assume that community pharmacies can maintain their “very basic function of the supply of medicines to the public.”

Urging the Department of Health to step in with more funding to help pharmacies, he warned: “Without further intervention, which is what we are seeking your support in, the community pharmacy funding deficit will widen further.”

The DH said it “recognises the fundamental role that community pharmacies have been carrying out.” But one pharmacist posted on X: “It’s ok recognising our role but what we need is the Department to recognise our costs otherwise supply will stop. The cuts in what we are reimbursed for medicines mean there is just not enough extra left over to pay our staff, our overheads and in many cases the cost of the drugs.”

The DH said it was “committed to working with CPNI on commissioning arrangements within the existing ministerial mandate and financial envelope” but warned it was “facing a significant funding gap to maintain existing services.”

Yet despite that, the DH said it had “provided additional in-year investment to support community pharmacy worth £14.9 million, including a suspension of discount clawback in November 2023 worth £4.8 million.”

The DH also said it had invested £6.1 million last month “relating to inflationary pressures and £4 million associated with service pressures related to medicines adherence services” as well as promising to review the financial framework for community pharmacy services.


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