Northern Irish community pharmacy should be considered the ‘fourth emergency service’, a retailers’ trade association has said.

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly called on the Government to regard pharmacies in Northern Ireland as the ‘fourth emergency service’ after police, ambulance and fire services.

The Pharmacist approached the Department of Health (DH) for comment.


Addressing funding cuts


Mr Connolly said that the Government needs to urgently address the funding crisis Northern Irish community pharmacies are currently dealing with.

He added: ‘Community pharmacy is essential in Northern Ireland and is tantamount to a fourth emergency service especially in rural areas where they take pressure off the already strained health service.

‘At a time when other areas such as Scotland and Wales are innovating and investing in their community pharmacies, we’re in grave danger of underfunding a service that makes a tangible difference to our quality of life.’

On 31 October, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) director Gerard Greene argued that a lack of resources have resulted in some pharmacy services across Northern Ireland lagging 10 years behind their Welsh, English and Scottish counterparts.


‘Some pharmacies will be forced to close’


In 2016, then-health minister Michelle O’Neill set out her vision for the future of healthcare in Northern Ireland in a 10-year plan, with pharmacists playing a central role in primary care.

But CPNI argued that Ms O’Neill’s vision is now in jeopardy following the collapse of the Northern Irish Assembly and the DH’s decision to remove an estimated £20m from the community pharmacy funding package in 2017/18.

Mr Greene said: ‘This is an extremely difficult period for community pharmacy. We’re now coming to a critical point when some pharmacists are being forced to make tough decisions which may force them to close causing job losses across Northern Ireland and have a hugely negative impact on patients and customers.

‘We cannot afford more vacant units on the high street, especially those of the local pharmacist who provides much needed healthcare in a community setting.'