Hub & spoke proposals don’t take Northern Ireland into account
The Government’s proposals to change the laws on hub and spoke dispensing are “England-centric” and do not take into account the realities in Northern Ireland, a professional body has said.
In its response to the Department for Health and Social Care’s hub and spoke consultation, Pharmacy Forum NI said: “We regret to find little or no analysis of the unique position of the pharmacy sector in Northern Ireland in the consultation papers or the supporting impact analysis.”
Pointing out key differences between the English and Northern Irish markets, PFNI said the latter has a smaller and more rural population with areas of significant deprivation and a high medication burden driven by socioeconomic factors as well as the lingering impact of the Troubles.
It added that Northern Ireland still follows EU rules such as the Falsified Medicines Directive, and does not currently run an Electronic Prescriptions Service.
It warned that the proposed changes, particularly ‘model 2’ in which hubs could dispense medicines directly to patients, “could seriously affect the ability of community pharmacies to provide other services, over and above the safe supply of medicines”.
“While Pharmacy Forum NI is supportive of the principle of creating a level playing field for all pharmacies in respect of hub and spoke dispensing, the proposals arrived at in this consultation remain England-centric in nature,” said PFNI.
“We believe that more work needs to be carried out on how the proposed changes could have an effect on the provision of pharmaceutical services in Northern Ireland and how these may affect the relevant local legislation, which differs significantly from the rest of the UK.”
Pharmacy Forum NI chair Eamon O’Donnell said: “The preservation of patient safety is paramount and must be a guiding principle in any developments impacting NI pharmacy.
“With the current proposals, we believe model 1 better conserves the pharmacist-patient relationship, which has become indispensable as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly for our most vulnerable in society.
“Community pharmacy services are keeping accessible healthcare at the heart of communities; model 2 stands in the way of this by taking pharmacy out of the community and community out of the pharmacy.
“In Northern Ireland where the average population [sic] lives one mile from a community pharmacy, it simply doesn’t fit.”