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NI Community pharmacies forced to withdraw an essential service from patients due to safety concerns

Community pharmacies in Northern Ireland claim that from today, they will no longer be able to offer Monitored Dosage Systems - medicine trays - to new patients "because of safety fears caused by Department of Health budget cuts"
Marie Louise McConville

COMMUNITY pharmacies in Northern Ireland claim they have been forced to withdraw an essential service from patients due to safety concerns.

From today pharmacists said they will no longer be able to offer Monitored Dosage Systems - medicine trays - to new patients "because of safety fears caused by Department of Health budget cuts".

The trays are used by thousands of patients on a combination of drugs and are prepared daily by pharmacists to ensure they take the right drugs at the right time.

Pharmacists have said they now fear that taking on new patients will "put both new and existing patients at risk".

Mark Hunter, a community pharmacist, said: "Medicine trays are a vital service and over 30,000 people in Northern Ireland rely on these trays daily for the safe management of their medicines.

"Making the decision to withdraw this service has been an extremely difficult one for us to make but as health professionals, we must take difficult choices when we believe patient safety is at risk.

"As departmental cuts deepen in our sector, pharmacists are working longer hours and with fewer staff, so we no longer have the time or resource to provide this service to new patients safely.

Mr Hunter added: "Existing medicine trays patients are not affected but we cannot guarantee that in the long term".

Clare-Anne Magee, from Carers NI, said: "Carers in the family, or domiciliary care providers rely on these trays to administer the correct medication, so the withdrawal of this service will not only impact on them but could mean a slowdown in hospital discharge rates if patients do not have adequate means to manage their conditions at home".

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI - the body which represents community pharmacists - called on the Department of Health to "recognise the importance of community services and immediately release additional funding to protect these services and allow community pharmacy teams to continue to do what they do so well - support the health and well-being of local patients in their community".

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