In the wake of persistent and widespread workforce pressures, community pharmacists have voted overwhelmingly to cease providing medicines in compliance aids such as medicines trays for new patients from 1st December 2021.
At a meeting of community pharmacist contractors last week, 97% voted to close the medicine adherence service to new patients from the start of next month. Faced with mounting pressures and without the appropriate investment, community pharmacists have serious concerns about their ability to continue providing this non-commissioned service, that is delivered largely on a goodwill basis.
The service involves community pharmacists supporting patients in the community to manage their medicines, and involves an in-depth pharmacist consultation, continuous monitoring, medicines provision in a specialised container, and regular and ongoing collaboration between a patient, their family, and the pharmacist.
Community pharmacists have continually warned that due to sustained workforce pressures and increasing staffing shortages, they would reach a point at which they could no longer accept new patients if they were to ensure the safe delivery of commissioned core services, including the dispensing of medicines and Covid-19 vaccination and Booster services.
Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene said: “Due to increasing pressures, community pharmacists must prioritise core services and the contractor vote to cease providing new patients requiring non-commissioned compliance aid services was not taken lightly. We are now in a position which no community pharmacist wants to be in but continuing to accept new patients whilst managing an already demanding workload, coupled with severe workforce shortages would put both patient safety and commissioned pharmacy services at risk.
“Community pharmacists are an essential part of the delivery of the adherence service, using their clinical skills at a community level to support patients in managing their medicines safely. They want to continue to support their patients but only via a service commissioned and appropriately funded by the Health and Social Care Board.”
Community Pharmacist Peter Rice said: “As essential primary healthcare providers, it deeply concerns me that we have arrived at this point, but my staff are stretched extremely thinly, and we cannot continue to take-in new patients for the service without the appropriate resources in support
“As part of this service, we have been assisting patients, often those who are elderly, to safely manage their medicines at home and in the community, reducing the need for patients to be transferred to other settings such as hospitals. It is worrying that by not commissioning this service, there could be additional and avoidable hospital pressures.
“We are continually approached by new patients and their families who want to avail of the medicines adherence service, and as healthcare providers we want to help. Without the support from the Department to do this, we have to protect core services until a solution can be found.”