Part of the Pharmacist’s series on how the funding cuts are affecting ordinary pharmacists, a Northern Irish contractor explains the impact they are having on his business
Joe McAleer (pictured centre left), owner, Belcoo Pharmacy, Northern Ireland
‘The impact of the funding cuts has been totally as expected. We have been highlighting the underfunding to the Department of Health for eight years now.
‘Like most community pharmacists across Northern Ireland, a greater level of stress is now being experienced.
‘In practical terms, it often means that we’re short staffed and it’s very hard for colleagues to even take a day off. Due to underfunding, it is even difficult to employ anyone to cover days off.
‘Across the sector, this may mean the introduction of shorter working days or closing at lunchtime, which will ultimately be felt most by our patients who we care for.
‘It’s been a case of shaving costs where we can. But we’ve been doing this for over eight years now, which has an impact on any investment we want to make. We have concentrated on maximising our retail sales, as these bring in income.
‘For some community pharmacists this has, for example, meant stopping the servicing of local nursing homes and collecting patient prescriptions.
‘Like many rural pharmacies we avail of a Rural Pharmacy Access scheme, which underwent a 20% cut in funding. There isn’t a Quality Payment Scheme (QPS) like in England.
‘Overall, there has been a step back from our community work as investment in extra staff support to deliver these wider services isn’t available to us.
‘We carry less stock, which is affecting patients and means that they may have to make numerous journeys to fulfil a prescription.
‘I’m very concerned for the future of community pharmacy in general and specifically, my patients, my community, myself and my family.
‘None of us deserve the current situation. It cannot continue much longer.’