The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) is investing £8m of funding to support pharmacies deliver new health improvement services similar to other parts of the UK. This includes significant investment for the provision of enhanced pharmacy services for communities in rural and deprived areas.
The funding decision follows protracted contract negotiations with community pharmacy representatives which, unfortunately, did not lead to an agreed position being reached.
The investment was announced in the Assembly by Health Minister Edwin Poots during his speech on the Way Forward for Community Pharmacy this afternoon.
Speaking today, HSCB Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management Joe Brogan said:
“The Board is seeking to make this investment in community pharmacy service provision as it believes that pharmacy has a tremendous amount to offer to improve the health and well-being of the population.
“We believe it is important to invest in community pharmacy particularly in rural and deprived areas as they provide communities with significant opportunities for improving people’s health.
“Pharmacists have the skills and expertise to support better health for our population. We see this investment as a means to prepare pharmacies, pharmacists and their staff for provision of new and innovative services,” he said.
Mr Brogan explained that the investment of £8m will take the amount of money spent on community pharmacy services to at least £91.5m in Northern Ireland in 2011/12 – compared with an equivalent (on a pro rata population basis) of £82m in England and Wales and £87m in Scotland.
“There are higher levels of need in Northern Ireland and we need to reflect that in the investments that we make. Furthermore, we believe the future of our health service lies in more community based services and pharmacies are an important part of that future.
“In delivering health and social care services, it is essential that we provide high quality and affordable services to the right people, at the right time in the right places,” he stressed.
Mr Brogan said that the HSCB and the Department of Health (DHSSPS) had made significant efforts to agree a fair and equitable contract with community pharmacy representatives that will ensure sustainable and high quality pharmacy services for everyone in Northern Ireland.
“Throughout the process of contract negotiation, the overall financial package for community pharmacy services has been in dispute.
“The Board and DHSSPS have put in significant time and effort to support the analysis of the appropriate investment for community pharmacy services in Northern Ireland. We have engaged fastidiously with community pharmacy representatives and have reached a position where we are able to invest at least £90m in pharmacy services.
“It is regrettable that community pharmacy representatives want an overall amount of between £123m and £130m for services in Northern Ireland. This equates to around 50% of a higher cost per person in NI than anywhere else in the UK. To the tax payer, paying 50% more for any service in NI is wholly unacceptable.
“However, we are confident that with this investment of £8m in 2011/12 we will be able to place community pharmacy on a firm footing to provide new services which are already being delivered elsewhere in the UK. Ultimately this will benefit all patients and the wider community in Northern Ireland,” he added.