‘Snowball’ of pharmacy closures within weeks, negotiator warns

Pharmacy owners have “a matter of weeks”, and “certainly no more than a couple of months”, before they will be forced to close as a result of the country’s ongoing funding crisis, Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) chief executive Gerard Greene told C+D last week (October 31).

“Several years” without a pharmacy contract or stable funding settlement has left community pharmacy in a “crisis position”, he stressed.

“We have had 12 months now of sustained funding reductions”, which amounts to a “£20 million deficit at least”, Mr Greene explained.

Combined with a “workforce crisis and workload pressures”, it has resulted in “services to patients being really tested…to the point where it’s going beyond…safe service position”, he warned.

“The fear would be that once the first pharmacy closes there could be a snowball effect,” Mr Greene said.

The closures will be “indiscriminate across Northern Ireland and in an uncontrolled manner”, he added.

Speaking exclusively to C+D after an all-party pharmacy group (APPG) meeting in parliament on how community pharmacies are faring in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Mr Greene said contractors across the country have been “utilising private funding from family members, cashing in pensions and remortgaging houses” to keep pharmacies open.

Northern Ireland “10 years behind”

During the APPG meeting, Mr Greene told MPs that services in Northern Ireland are up to 10 years behind other areas of the UK.

“The healthcare system in Northern Ireland needs radical change,” he said.

“How can we meet the changing needs of public healthcare when there is this huge funding problem in the background?”

Mr Greene called on the APPG to “intervene on our behalf – especially when we have no assembly or executive to deal with this devolved issue”.

In May, CPNI warned the “deepening” sector “crisis” caused by government under-funding was impacting pharmacists’ health and wellbeing.

Watch the video below to find out what else is contributing to the community pharmacy crisis in Northern Ireland.

Author: Lorraine Oliver