NI pharmacists call for greater prescription power

time:2023-06-03 16:28:04 source:Al Jazeera

Pharmacists in Northern Ireland have called for new powers enabling them to prescribe some medicines for patients here.

It comes as more people will be able to access health services without needing to see a GP under a new plan in England.

Patients there will soon be able to use high street pharmacies for some common prescription drugs.

NHS England said it will free up 15m GP appointments over the next two years.

Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy NI told BBC Talkback that pharmacists here are eager to do more to support health and social care.

"We are certain that similar arrangements for Northern Ireland would be incredibly beneficial," he said.

"For this to happen, however, there must be a stabilisation of community pharmacy funding, with the systemic underfunding of the network addressed urgently. Community pharmacists also need confidence that they operate on a solid foundation."

In light of the announcement in England, he said it was now even more important that local patients here were not disadvantaged and that the same services were also available in Northern Ireland.

"There is much potential, but a long way to go. We want to work with the Department of Health to turn all of this into reality."

The recovery plan promises to overhaul stretched GP services by shifting some of the work to other parts of the health service.

Pharmacies will take on the prescribing of drugs for seven common ailments:

Women will be able to get oral contraceptive pills direct from pharmacies too.

And patients will be able to self-refer for certain needs, such as booking in for NHS physiotherapy or podiatry without having to ask their family doctor first.

NHS England says its new Pharmacy First strategy will free up 15m GP appointments over the next two years - about 2% of the total.

The measures, which are part of what ministers are calling an "overhaul of primary care", are backed by £645m of spending over two years and come alongside efforts to end the 8am rush for GP appointments.

Ministers in England hope to roll out the new strategy this Winter, following an industry consultation.

The Royal College of Practitioners welcomed "some encouraging initiatives" in the NHS England plan but warned change was not going to happen overnight.

It said thousands more GPs had to be trained and retained.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the plan, saying: "We will end the 8am rush and expand the services offered by pharmacies, meaning patients can get their medication quickly and easily."

Recommended content