The volume of prescription orders in Northern Ireland has quadrupled in some pharmacies amid the coronavirus crisis.
As community pharmacies across the country face mounting pressure, Northern Ireland’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer made a plea to the public not to stockpile medication.
Cathy Harrison told the Northern Ireland Health Committee on Monday that GPs have ordered double the amount of paper to print their prescriptions.
Despite repeated warnings for people who need medication not to stockpile, pharmacies have been flooded with orders.
Chief Pharmaceutical Officer @cathyharrison00 tells the Committee that the supply chain of medicines is working.— NIAHealth (@niahealth) March 23, 2020
There is no need to stock pile medicines.
The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer said the coronavirus has not caused a shortage, adding that the general medicine supply chain is flowing across the UK.
“However, the demand from the public for prescription medicines has been tremendous,” she said.
“In Northern Ireland some of our pharmacies are reporting more than four times the volume of prescription items.
“Unfortunately, the messages around stockpiling and over-ordering have not totally got through to the public and I would really like to make a plea to people that there is no need to over-order and there’s no need to stockpile medicines, that we’ve got to keep that medicine supply chain flowing.
The virus is like nothing this generation has ever faced before, and its devastating consequences are there for all to see.Pam Cameron
“Unfortunately, there are always pressures in the supply chain and at the moment I envisage short term pressures caused by this incredible spike in demand.
“We can take action to address particular concerns but in general the supply chain is flowing but it does rely very much on everyone playing their part, not over ordering or stockpiling medicines of any type.”
She said there are around 200 recently retired pharmacists that could return to the register to help ease pressure in community pharmacies.
Ms Harrison told the Health Committee they are focusing on retired pharmacists before moving to recently graduated pharmacists and students in their final year at university.
She said they are not considering introducing mandatory measures as they have received a “great” response from pharmacists who want to help.
The committee also heard that community pharmacies are being supported in helping with the delivery of prescriptions to those who need it the most.
“The advice for everyone is, where possible ask a family member, a friend or a neighbour to collect your prescriptions for you,” Ms Harrison added.
“Then in extreme situations when people have no other help at all the pharmacies would be in a position to deliver, but we really have to preserve those services for the people who are most in need for deliveries.”
DUP MLA Pam Cameron warned the public to act responsibly and heed health experts’ advice.
The deputy chair of the health committee said: “Now is not the time for complacency or ignoring warnings.
“The virus is like nothing this generation has ever faced before, and its devastating consequences are there for all to see from China, Iran, Italy and other parts of the world.
“We’re living in extraordinary times and we must all act responsibly to get through this together.
“The Government advice on self-isolation and social distancing must be followed or else the consequences for our families and communities could be fatal.
“To those ignoring the seriousness of the situation, please listen to the expert medical advice and consider others who you might come into contact with.
“I have confidence that the defiant spirit of our people will see this through.
“Temporary sacrifices in our daily lives can give us the time to prepare and finally overcome this virus for good, but this will only happen if we follow the expert advice that was given.”
Ms Cameron commended the thousands of health care workers.
“Your dedication and bravery in the face of this threat is an inspiration to us all.
“As a community we must not let you down by ignoring the guidance.
“To the people in Northern Ireland: stay positive and take precautions.”