A petition to address Northern Irish (NI) community pharmacy funding problems has garnered more than 120,000 signatures.

The petition ‘save your local community pharmacy’, launched by representative pharmacy body Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI) in May, reached 120,112 signatures after closing on Monday (9 July).

Signatories pledged their support for the Government to address the sector’s funding pressures and develop new community pharmacy services.

It comes after the NI assembly collapsed last year, leaving the Department of Health (DH) with no health minister or executive.

In 2017/18, the DH removed an estimated £20m from the community pharmacy funding package, including £3.6m in propriety mitigation, £400k in rural access support and £16m in category M drug tariff adjustments, according to CPNI.

A CPNI spokesperson told The Pharmacist that there have been a series of ongoing meetings with DH officials but ‘we are still no further forward’.

The Pharmacist has contacted the DH for comment.


Fighting for their existence


Community Pharmacy NI chief executive Gerard Greene said that ‘pharmacists in NI are fighting for their future existence’.

He added: ‘Patients and patient groups have told us that they are extremely worried about this situation and are very concerned that some pharmacists are being forced to make tough decisions and how that might impact on their care.

‘Elected representatives, business leaders and patient representative organisations are standing with us. This huge public outpouring needs to be heard and recognised by the DH.

‘They can no longer keep their heads in the sand and hide behind the fact that there is no assembly or executive in place.

‘They made the cuts in the first place and they have it within their gift to redress the funding issues and must do so urgently.’


‘A central role’


In 2016, former NI health minister Michelle O’Neill published a 10-year plan based on multi-disciplinary teams, in which pharmacists would play ‘a central role, both as pharmacists in multi-disciplinary teams based in GP practices and as community pharmacists', according to an NI assembly briefing paper.

CPNI said that they are ‘continuing on with the campaign to press the case with the DH and permanent secretary Richard Pengelly and will use the ‘huge level of support realized through the petition as evidence of how critical community pharmacy services are’.