Senior peer Lord Rogan has asked the UK Government to reveal what discussions it is having with Community Pharmacy NI about extra funding for pharmacies in Northern Ireland.

Lord Rogan, deputy speaker of the Lords, warned that ‘lives are undoubtedly at risk’ because of the impact of soaring drug wholesale prices, adding that there could be ‘devastating consequences’ if a solution is not swiftly found.

Last month, CPNI, which represents hundreds of local pharmacies as the sector’s negotiating body in Northern Ireland, warned that drugs used to treat numerous health conditions including osteoporosis, high blood pressure, insomnia, mental health and coronary conditions, could run out ‘within weeks’, amid exponential rises in wholesale prices and widespread shortages.

The Department of Health has offered the sector £5.3m to address the situation, but CPNI has said that £20m to £30m is required.

In a statement, Lord Rogan said that he is ‘gravely concerned’ about the ‘developing crisis and the lack of urgency which UK Government Ministers seem to be showing towards it’.

The Ulster Unionist Party peer added: ‘I am especially worried about the fate of smaller pharmacies in rural parts of Northern Ireland which local people depend upon so much.’

‘In the absence of an Executive at Stormont, it is for Northern Ireland Office Ministers to step forward and take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of people living in the Province.

‘I have tabled a Written Parliamentary Question to try to prompt some proactive engagement between UK Ministers and CPNI, because the consequences of not finding a swift resolution to this issue are potentially devastating.

‘Lives are undoubtedly at risk.’

This week, data from bookings platform Locate a Locum suggested that locum rates were higher in rural areas due to a ‘rural premium’.

And last August, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association said that temporary pharmacy closures called by workforce shortages could also have a disproportionate impact on patients in rural areas.

In England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee have said that they are working ‘at pace’ to reform the price concession system, as contractors report unsustainable losses.