Work pressures in Northern Ireland’s community pharmacies have risen by half over the past decade, a new KPMG report indicates.
The report, which was commissioned by sector negotiator Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland and published yesterday (June 17), reveals that activity related to dispensing and commissioned services has gone up by an estimated 49 per cent since a previous analysis in 2011-12.
KPMG estimates that the cost to Northern Ireland’s 528 community pharmacies of providing crucial services has risen by a “minimum” of 16 per cent over this period, from £126 to £146m.
These pressures have risen to “unprecedented” levels during the pandemic, a crisis that has “demonstrated the ability and responsiveness of the network”.
The report also touches on comments made a former health minister suggesting there were 100 too many pharmacies in Northern Ireland. The authors note that CPNI “recognises that some change may be required… but strongly considers that this should be done in a managed way” and accompanied by a “stable commissioning plan and stable funding model”.
The analysis suggests that the pharmacy network has “notable cost avoidance and cost reduction benefits for the health service in NI”.
This includes estimated public savings of £20-25m each year from treating minor ailments in pharmacies, £20m from supervised drug consumption services and £10m from ‘medicines support’, which also provides “savings for wider society of £25m”.
Commenting on KPMG’s findings, CPNI chief executive Gerard Greene said the rise in workload must be matched by an increase in public spending.
Mr Greene 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.
“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. We have proven time and time again that we are a vital component part of the health service. Investment and forward planning are now required for our services to be elevated so we can continue to support our communities.”
CPNI vice chair Peter Rice added: "We implore the Department to look at this insightful report, recognise the value of community pharmacy, and allocate the much-needed investment to allow community pharmacy teams to play their part in the transformation of a stretched health service, ensuring patients across Northern Ireland can continue to access both the existing and enhanced healthcare services they need and deserve.”