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Review pharmacy cuts, says Margaret Ritchie

By Lisa Smyth

The Health Minister must urgently address concerns over funding of a vital frontline health service to protect patients, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said.

The SDLP leader has written to Edwin Poots to seek a review of the decision to cut the funding for pharmaceutical care in Northern Ireland.

Her intervention comes just weeks after Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI) warned up to 100 pharmacies across Northern Ireland are in danger of closure as health bosses push through cuts of up to £38m this year.

Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI) claimed hospital beds will be tied up by people who could otherwise be treated at home as pharmacies are forced to lay off staff and reduce services and opening hours.

The organisation has taken the matter to the High Court in an effort to reverse the cutbacks - which could mean up to 30% of funding removed from the service.

In a letter to Mr Poots, Ms Ritchie said: "I am writing to ascertain the department's response to the concerns regarding the estimated £38m cut to the community pharmacy provision and the expected resulting loss of 800 jobs and closure of 100 pharmacies throughout Northern Ireland.

"This is devastating news for the community and I would urge that the department look at this situation and how it can be resolved in the interest of safeguarding frontline community services."

However, Mr Poots said he could not make any comment on the matter because of the High Court proceedings.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) has said it is inappropriate to comment on the issue.

Background

Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI) is the body recognised as representing Northern Ireland's community pharmacy contractors in negotiations on remuneration and terms of service. Community pharmacists provide a service accessible to the public without appointment.

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