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Children to be taught medicines safety in NI schools


By Isabel Shaw

23 Nov 2021

A new resource that teaches primary school children about community pharmacy and medicines safety has launched in Northern Ireland.  

The interactive educational resource, known as the Pharmacy Schools Programme, has been developed by the Department of Health and the charity Belfast Healthy Cities to promote self-care and to raise awareness of medication safety with school children.  

It also hopes to bring to light the role of community pharmacy services to treat minor childhood ailments such as colds, head lice and hay fever. 

The resource includes planned lessons, printouts for pupils and teaching guides.  

The launch of the resource follows a pilot which was trialled in primary schools in Belfast earlier this year. 

The Pharmacy Schools Programme was also developed to support the delivery of the Medicines Optimisation Quality Framework and Transforming medication safety in Northern Ireland strategy, which seeks to maximise beneficial health outcomes and minimise the risk of harm from medicine use. 

All primary schools in Northern Ireland are eligible to use the resource, which includes lessons plans for teachers to use, for children in Primary 1 – Primary 7.  

At the launch of the programme earlier this month (11 November), the Health Minister, Robin Swann, said: ‘I feel it is important that primary school children are able to avail of the learning opportunities that programmes like this provide.   

‘The provision of a structured health literacy approach whereby children will be able to learn about the health system will allow them to critically appraise the health information available to them and to practice shared decision-making.  

‘This, I feel, is an essential skill that children must learn to develop early in their lives as it can positively influence health behaviour across their life course’.  

Cathy Harrison, the Department of Health’s chief pharmaceutical officer, said: ‘This programme raises much-needed awareness on the importance of self-care and medication safety whilst it also highlights the importance of the services and advice that is available through our community pharmacies for most minor ailments.  

‘Increased health literacy and access to good health-related information are necessary for people to see themselves as the co-producers of, and in control of decisions that have an effect on their own health.  

‘It is clear that this programme supports the Department’s goals for improving population health outcomes, by ensuring that we continue to recognise the importance of self-care and that we take steps to ensure the safe use of medicines across our population and health service.’ 

Meanwhile, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) has denied a suggestion voiced last week on breakfast TV that medicine supplies into Northern Ireland are being impacted as a result of the protocol.

This was in response to a comment made on Good Morning Britain on Friday (13 November), in which Roger Pollen, head of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, shared that several of his members running pharmacies and small wholesale distribution businesses were finding ‘real difficulty accessing supplies’.

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