NI public urged to use their local community pharmacy

Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland is highlighting the role community pharmacies are playing in alleviating pressure on other parts of the health service as we enter what is expected to be an extremely challenging winter period.

The theme of this year’s World Pharmacists Day is “Pharmacy: Always trusted for your health” and the representative body is urging the public to reflect on how pharmacies have been supporting their local communities. 

Last week, it was announced that community pharmacy is to have an expanded role in this year’s Winter Flu Vaccination Programme, taking responsibility for administering the jab to frontline health and social care workers as well as those aged over 50.

A newly expanded ‘Pharmacy First’ service will soon be introduced in Northern Ireland to provide consultations, advice, and treatments for minor health conditions and, if necessary, recommend an appropriate referral. Through the service, patients are encouraged to visit a participating community pharmacy rather than their GP for a defined list of common conditions. 

To date, community pharmacies have also seen their role in the Covid-19 vaccination programme increase to provide a permanent vaccination setting in the months ahead. Currently, in Northern Ireland, there are 350 community pharmacies still offering the Astra Zeneca vaccine, whilst 54 are currently administering the Moderna vaccine – with plans for this to be scaled up. The sector is also hopeful of inclusion in the Covid-19 booster programme.

Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene said:

“This World Pharmacists Day is an opportunity to showcase the range of services our community pharmacies can offer and the role they will play as a crucial, accessible part of the health service. It is also a time to pay tribute to our pharmacy teams across the network and their dedicated work to all in the community who they work tirelessly for all year round.

“Remaining agile throughout the course of the pandemic we introduced new services to meet the changing needs of the public, with the safe supply of medicines a major priority. Our community pharmacy network remains committed to supporting our communities and the wider health service by playing an increased role in primary healthcare ahead of what is expected to be a difficult winter period.

“We are all too aware of the pressures the health service is currently under. Community pharmacy is a vital community health asset, ready to provide practical solutions. I would encourage the public to think ‘Pharmacy First’ this autumn and winter.”

Community Pharmacist, Peter Rice said:

“Throughout the course of the pandemic, community pharmacies have shown that they can make a real difference in our communities as we fight against Covid-19. We are ready to do the same again as we enter what looks to be a challenging winter.

“Many are not fully aware of the impact community pharmacy teams have within their communities, for example, just recently a Northern Ireland community pharmacy pandemic delivery service identified patients who required ambulance call-outs, urgent referrals to ED, and prevented harm to many vulnerable and isolated people within our communities.”

I look forward to celebrating our network on this World Pharmacists Day as we continue to provide accessible healthcare at a convenient location to our patients with a clinician they know and trust.”

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