Pharmacist plan 'will aid GP crisis'
Leading doctors have welcomed a £14m investment to allow pharmacists to carry out support work in GP practices across Northern Ireland.
Under the new plans, pharmacists will be able to carry out routine medication reviews and advise patients on medication, working as part of a team with doctors and practice nurses.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said the five-year plan will help to alleviate the crisis faced by GPs regarding rising patient lists.
Demand for GPs in Northern Ireland has rocketed, with family surgeries having to deal with 5.5m more appointments a year compared to a decade ago.
The cost of prescribing has fallen by 18% in real terms since 2006, but the volume of prescriptions continues to rise significantly.
Health Minister Simon Hamilton said he now wants to "better utilise" pharmacists and explained the initiative will see the additional investment in 2016/17 of up to £2.6m, rising to £14m per year in 2020/21.
The Royal College of GPs Northern Ireland, however, said more work is still needed. With around 1.9 million patients in Northern Ireland being looked after by approximately 950 full-time equivalent GPs, this is approximately 2,000 patients per family doctor.
Mr Hamilton said: "Not only will this approach deliver a better service for patients, it is also common sense to ensure we make the most effective use of the skills and experience we have in health and social care," he said.