Northern Ireland news

Pharmacies in north 'treating tens of thousands of extra patients a day'

People queuing outside a pharmacy in west Belfast as they limited customer numbers to two at a time because of the coronavirus outbreak. Picture by Mal McCann

PHARMACIES last week dispensed almost four times the amount of medication as normal, with pharmacists treating tens of thousands of extra patients every day.

The body which represents community pharmacies said its members had seen a huge increase in patients as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Many of the patients were either seeking advice about the virus or asking for prescription medicines.

Community Pharmacy NI said some services may have to be restricted to prioritise those most in need.

It asked the public to understand growing pressure on pharmacies and to work with any new arrangements.

The body also urged people not to stockpile medicines.

Speaking after an emergency meeting of Community Pharmacy NI on Sunday, chief executive Gerard Greene said the issue had been compounded by pressures on GPs' surgeries.

“We are also seeing many people seeking to purchase supplies of over the counter medications such as paracetamol and other analgesic medications," he said.

"The public should not stockpile medicines and they should be assured that pharmacies are working hard to manage the stock levels.

"Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that medicines and prescriptions are not over-ordered. We must all think of each other to ensure that there are enough medicines for everyone and especially for those in our community who are most in need."

Mr Greene asked anyone with coronavirus symptoms - a raised temperature or persistent new cough – not to come into a pharmacy and to self-isolate for seven days.

"If your symptoms worsen during your home isolation or you are no better after seven days, seek medical advice by telephone," he said.

"If you have an underlying health condition and develop symptoms do let your GP know. This action will help protect others in your community while you are infectious.

"At this time, it is hugely important that we all work together to get through this health crisis."

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