Northern Ireland news

Supply of drugs to community pharmacies could 'grind to a halt'

Gerard Greene, CEO of Community Pharmacy NI, has warned about problems with the supply of medicines

MEDICINE suppliers have warned the Department of Health they may not be able to supply drugs to community pharmacies amid fears the businesses cannot afford to pay their bills, a group representing pharmacists has said.

Community Pharmacy NI said that unless the department steps in the supply of medicines "could grind to a halt".

The group's chief executive, Gerard Greene, said it had repeatedly warned the department that "community pharmacy is on its knees and cannot pay its bills" because the sector is being under-funded.

"We have seen correspondence which shows that the department was warned some time ago by a major wholesaler that the supply of medicines to patients could grind to a halt," he said.

He said many of its members had to use their pension funds and savings to pay suppliers.

"What is more difficult to understand is the fact that we have political support across the board for an improvement of the pharmacy contract, as well as direction from the last health minister Michelle O'Neill to sort this out," he said.

"The sheer intransigence of the department in resolving this situation will result in pharmacies closing and will reduce people's access to a vital health service, impacting hugely upon patient safety.

"Funding of at least £130 million is required for a safe community pharmacy service in Northern Ireland."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said last night it planned to make an announcement on pharmacy funding "shortly".

"The issue will be resolved through dialogue and constructive thinking all round," she said.

"There are many deserving demands being made on the health and social care budget. It always needs to be remembered that the budget is far from infinite and the department cannot spend money it does not have."

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