Tens of thousands of “extra patients” are presenting at community pharmacies across Northern Ireland every day as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI) says last week some of its members dispensed almost four times the amount of medication they normally would in a week.
The pharmacy body wants the public to recognise the pressures pharmacy teams face and to understand that those most in need will be given priority.
CPNI Chief Executive Gerard Greene said people with Covid-19 symptoms should not visit pharmacy and that they should not stockpile medicines.
Speaking after an emergency meeting of Community Pharmacy NI, Greene said: “There has been an incredible surge of thousands of patients per day going to local community pharmacies across NI to seek advice on COVID-19 type symptoms, or to obtain supplies of prescription medicines.
“This issue has been compounded by the fact that a lot of GP surgeries have closed to the public and this has had the effect of shifting additional pressures into local pharmacies.
“We are also seeing many people seeking to purchase supplies of over the counter medications such as paracetamol and other analgesic medications.”
The pharmacy body is also calling on the Department of Health to take urgent action to help the network to deal with the gravity of the situation.