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We're struggling to pay for patients’ medicines, says Northern Ireland pharmacy owner

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We're struggling to pay for patients’ medicines, says Northern Ireland pharmacy owner

A Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland board member who owns pharmacies in County Fermanagh has said he can no longer afford to stock the volume of medicines he once did and warned poor funding has left his businesses “living day-to-day.”

CPNI board member Joe McAleer, who represents Fermanagh and South Tyrone and runs pharmacies in Belcoo and Enniskillen, said he has had to reduce staff numbers and increase his overdraft as funding pressures bite, which in turn is having an impact on patients as they try to get hold of their medicines.

“We can’t afford to stock the volume of medicines we had before, we haven’t the money to actually invest in the stock,” McAleer told BBC News.

“A lot of pharmacies now can only order in as a prescription comes in, we’re just living day-to-day. Patients are having to make multiple journeys to come in and collect their medicines because the pharmacy hasn’t got it.”

McAleer said he knew of other pharmacy owners in Northern Ireland who had been forced to expand their overdrafts and increase their loans to keep their pharmacies going having reached the limit on their credit cards.

He insisted owners were “juggling wholesalers” and had “introduced private funds” to help them make ends meet and ensure patients do not go without medicines.

“(Pharmacies) depend on sales on the shop floor of shampoos and shower gels to actually pay for the medicines for the patients and that’s an unacceptable situation,” McAleer said.

CPNI chief executive Gerard Greene warned the Department for Health needed to provide more funding to support pharmacies in the country, with 12 closing in the last 18 months.

“Pharmacies are struggling to pay wholesaler bills at the end of the month, and it means there’s a risk that the pharmacies then don’t get the drugs from wholesalers until the bills are paid,” he told BBC Radio Ulster Good Morning.

“We’re the open door of the health service, we’re picking up a lot of changed practice that there is in primary care and that’s putting pressure on community pharmacies.

"The supply of medicines is one of the basic functions of the health service. It was one of the things that during the pandemic that was prioritised. There was investment found at that stage and we need to make sure that is kept going.”

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