Emergency NI meeting as pharmacists warn 150 medicines shortage 'critical'

Community pharmacists in the north of Ireland have convened an emergency meeting of contractors as it warned the sector sits on ‘the cusp of critical medicine shortages’.

Community Pharmacy NI have now warned that widespread shortages are anticipated affecting drugs used to treat common conditions, including blood pressure, mental health, osteoporosis, and prostate conditions.

The meeting came ahead of an emergency summit with MLAs at Stormont on Tuesday to discuss the matter, following on from a £5.3m support package the Department of Health said earlier this month was now being finalised.

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Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI said after the meeting on Thursday last: "The supply line of medicines from suppliers to pharmacists is on the verge of being completely severed. Already we’re seeing shortages on around 150 medicines, equating to 1000 packs per pharmacy per month.

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI. (Photo Brian Thompson)

“The community pharmacy network needs urgent support at this time and the measures outlined by the Department of Health fall far short of what is needed. These supply issues come at a time when the community pharmacy network is facing an unworkable £20-30 million deficit in its funding this year and the Department’s patently insufficient ‘support package’ of £5.3m falls considerably short to ensure the safe provision of services and medicines to patients throughout the winter ahead.”

Peter Rice, Chair of Community Pharmacy NI said: “For months, community pharmacists have been warning the Department of an impending crisis, and unfortunately, without the right response in place, that crisis is now here.”

The Department of Health earlier this month said that there are ‘national and locally tried and trusted mitigation arrangements’ for dealing with any supply distributions ‘to ensure that patients continue to get the medicines they need’.

A DoH spokesperson said on October 18: “The Minister and Department are very aware of the pressures facing community pharmacies. The Minister and officials discussed the situation with Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI) representatives at a meeting last week. The scale of the unprecedented budgetary pressures and uncertainty currently facing the Department were spelt out.

Peter Rice, Chair of Community Pharmacy NI. (Photo Brian Thompson)

“Notwithstanding these pressures, Community Pharmacy NI were informed that a support package for their sector was being finalised. This package includes immediate interventions worth over £5.3m in value, plus a commitment to progress wider reform arrangements in collaboration with CPNI.”