26/02/2020

Community Pharmacists Vote To Take Industrial Action

Community pharmacists have voted to take industrial action in a last resort measure to ensure the safety of patients.

Some 98% of pharmacy contractors voted to press ahead with the action on Monday.

It comes amid a prolonged struggle against funding pressures and a "work-force crisis".

Hundreds of thousands of people visit a pharmacy in their community every day, a vital link between patients and their GPs.

Health Minister Robin Swann has come under pressure to resolve the matter after representatives from 498 pharmacies attended a closed meeting on Monday night, with many reporting that their services have reached a "breaking point".

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw urged the Minister to take immediate steps to avoid the action, no dates or details of which have emerged as yet.

The south Belfast MLA said: "They are more than just medical professionals. For many people, they are an integral part of the community, working long hours to provide expert guidance as the true frontline for the health service in every locality.
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"What is needed is £20 million – a tiny share of the overall health budget – which would provide real value not just because it would secure the future of frontline medical professionals, but because it would restore a central pillar of every community in Northern Ireland.

"The Minister must heed the warning that this is small money for a big difference."

SDLP Health spokesperson Sinead Bradley MLA said there is no evidence of any practical support from the Department.

"It is a damning indictment of this lack of support, that 98% of community pharmacies feel no other option but to take industrial action," the south Down MLA commented.

"Across the North community pharmacists are struggling; government funding has been cut, and local chemist shops are having to make staff redundant and reduce opening hours, ultimately damaging our communities.

"Some years ago, the Compton Review, reinforced by the Bengoa plan, envisaged an enhanced role for Community Pharmacy in the transformation of how healthcare is provided here, but this intransigence will, I fear, lead to chemist closures and will have a severe impact on people’s access to healthcare."



(JG/CM)

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