Northern Ireland announcement on pharmacists in GP surgeries

07 Dec 2015

Additional investment is to be provided to enable pharmacists to work within GP Practices.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, has announced that additional investment is to be provided to enable pharmacists to work within GP Practices. The investment will be made over a five year period, with £2.55 million being invested in 2016/17 which will then rise to £14 million per year in 2020/21.


NPA Representation Manager in Northern Ireland, Anne McAlister, said:

“We are very keen to see the recommendations of the Donaldson report implemented, in particular that there is a greatly expanded role for pharmacists. We are supportive of a multi-disciplinary approach, utilising pharmacy skills alongside other disciplines to ensure that services are delivered as close to patients/service users homes as possible, empower patients and promote health and prevent illness to provide the best possible patient outcomes.

“We are however keen to highlight the role that community pharmacists have to play in reducing demand on GP practices and optimising medicines use. For example, research undertaken by Pharmacy Research UK in 2014 showed that approximately 18 000 000 GP visits for minor ailments could be treated by community pharmacy. Yet the current minor ailments service in Northern Ireland is limited to ten specific conditions. Additional services such as Medicines Use Reviews (MURs) which specifically support patients with long term conditions have also been capped though they can support patient compliance with their medicines and reduce medicines waste. Community pharmacy is also the largest smoking cessation provider in Northern Ireland demonstrating the accessibility of the community pharmacy network as a significant factor in supporting people to quit.”

“A recent pilot service in Anderson’s Pharmacy, Portadown aimed to establish and prove the concept that patients with long term conditions can be effectively and safely managed by a pharmacist independent prescriber from a community pharmacy. A report published in the Journal of Medicines Optimisation has stated that using full remote access to GP systems, patients with hypertension or respiratory disease were managed by community pharmacist independent prescribers within the convenience of the community pharmacy. 97% of patients were very satisfied with the service. Such a service is fully aligned to a number of Governmental reviews and  policies, namely Transforming Your Care, the DHSSPS Making it Better Through Community Pharmacy Strategy and the Donaldson Report. Not only does it demonstrate an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach but also improves medicines use and provides seamless care. However, in order for community pharmacists to play a greater role within health and social care it is imperative that there is appropriate read and write access the patient health records and the NPA stress the need for this to occur sooner rather than later.”


NPA Chair, Ian Strachan, said in a recent message to members:

“Many health interventions are built on the back on the medicines supply function – meaning safe, efficient delivery of services in the community, when and where the patient needs them.  So, while the community pharmacy network can be complemented by models of care that involve, say, pharmacists in GP practices, the pharmacy network has to remain the beating heart of pharmaceutical care in the community.”

He added today:

“Of course we welcome the principle of healthcare professionals working together closely to provide seamless care.  The danger in this particular proposal is that attention is diverted away from the potential inherent in the existing community pharmacy network, which is currently under-utilised”.