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The community pharmacy in Northern Ireland has been transformative in supporting patients and the healthcare service, according to a report by accounting firm KPMG.

However, the report highlighted that more investment is needed in the sector to continue its contribution to the primary care.

The KPMG report showed a 16 per cent increase in the basic annual cost of providing commissioned services from £126 million in 2011-12 to £146m in 2020-21. Dispensing activity and other pharmacy services went up by 49 per cent during this period, considerably increasing the workload.

“Working on the ground in my pharmacy, I see daily the impact of the increasing demand for services. We have never been busier, with patients seeking advice and needing dispensed medicines and other services on a wider scale than we have seen before,” commented Peter Rice, community pharmacist and vice chair of CPNI.

“We are now the first point of contact for many patients with health queries, we want to support patients and indeed do more, but we need the investment aligned to our costs and we need stability to plan for an increased role and offering going forward.”

The Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI) has urged the Department of Health to consider the report’s findings as attention turns to transformation of the health service.

“This report shows the reality of the community pharmacy response during Covid and the costings for community pharmacy services in Northern Ireland,” Gerard Greene, CPNI chief executive, said.

“With continued pressures on the health service, community pharmacies have, and will continue to see, an increased reliance on the service by patients with an associated increase in costs, dispensing and services over the next ten years. Funding therefore must match this rise in demand to ensure the correct provision of care is afforded to patients.”

Greene noted that the funds allocated in July 2020 to meet the Covid-19 pandemic demand, after the pharmacies called of their decision in early 2020 to take industrial action in the wake of the pandemic, addressed issues only for one year.

“This level of funding needs to be recurrent, matched to the cost of providing the service and a long-term solution is now needed,” he added.

“As we move out of the pandemic, and talk turns to transformation, it is imperative that community pharmacy is part of the discussion around planning for primary care. Investment and forward planning are now required for our services to be elevated so we can continue to support our communities.”

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