Community pharmacists in Northern Ireland will receive an additional £11m in funding to last until 2020, the Department of Health (DH) has announced.
The DH revealed on Friday (16 November) that an £11.1m funding boost will be made available to pharmacies in Northern Ireland up to 31 March 2020. This comes on top of the £104m already allocated to the sector for 2018/19 and 2019/20.
In 2017/18, the DH removed an estimated £20m from the community pharmacy funding package, according to Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI).
Addressing immediate pressures
According to the DH, £9m of the funding will be made available to address the immediate pressures within pharmacy and support services for patients in social care settings as well as pharmacies located in rural areas.
The rest of the funding (£2.1m) will be used immediately for the launch of a winter pharmacy first service, which will allow patients with certain minor ailments to be treated in pharmacies first.
Responding to the announcement, CPNI chair John Clark said that the extra funding is a ‘sticking plaster’ that ‘fails to address the funding difficulties pharmacy is currently in’.
He added: ‘Rather than increasing the funding proposals that were under discussion during the summer, the DH has responded by confirming a reduced level of funding.
‘Patients will suffer, medicine supply will be disrupted, and pharmacies will shut. That will have a huge impact on patient safety and will ultimately make the health service much harder to access for thousands of patients. The impact could not be starker.’
CPNI estimated that at least £130m is needed to enable a safe pharmacy service in Northern Ireland.
‘Unable to satisfy all demands’
DH permanent secretary Richard Pengelly recognised that ‘intensifying financial pressures across the health and social care sector’ has left the Government ‘unable to satisfy all of the demands for additional funding’.
He said: ‘[The] package is a significant recognition of our commitment to community pharmacy.
‘We’re very mindful of the growing pressures facing community pharmacists in different parts of the province. Officials from the DH and Health and Social Care Board have been working very hard to make [the] announcement possible.
‘The additional funding will help ensure that local populations have access to the most visited provider among all of the health services available.’