About pharmacy and medicines policy

The pharmacy and medicines policy group are responsible for providing specialist advice on medicines and pharmaceutical issues to the minister, department and wider health service and for the development of policy relating to medicines optimisation and pharmacy.

Leading on policy relating to pharmacy and medicines

Cathy Harrison, Senior Principal Pharmaceutical Officer leads the policy group which is responsible for providing specialist professional advice to, the minister, department and wider HSC on all matters relating to medicines and their use.

These include:

Providing professional advice and input into wider Department policy and business areas 

Other responsibilities

Advice on a career in pharmacy

There are a number of careers in pharmacy, including pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and medicines counter assistants. Find out what skills you need for each position.

Pharmacists are experts in medicines and their use. Most pharmacists practice in either community pharmacies or hospital settings.

Research and development

The HSC Research and Development division of the Public Health Agency works to promote, coordinate and support R&D within all fields of health and social care in Northern Ireland including Pharmacy.

The research supported provides high quality evidence to improve care for patients, clients and the general population and enhances understanding of the factors which influence health, disease, treatment and care.


HSC R&D funding is directed by the current strategy Research for Health and Wellbeing which is built around five strategic goals.

Pharmacy research has been supported through a number of areas outlined in this strategy.

This has included the commissioning of research to support policy developments in areas such as Antimicrobial Resistance and in Pharmacist Prescribing.

HSC R&D provided initial funding to assist in the set-up of the Pharmacy Academic Practice Research Unit between the School of Pharmacy (Queens University, Belfast) and the Northern HSC Trust.  

A number of pharmacists in Northern Ireland have been awarded funding to allow them to undertake PhDs under the Doctoral Fellowship Scheme.

A key strategic goal for HSC R&D is to ensure that there is an enabling infrastructure for research within the HSC.  As such, the division has provided funding to each of the 5 HSC Trusts in order to enable them to develop a clinical trials pharmacy service.

Drug alerts  

Drug alerts are issued by DoH when a fault or defect is detected or a medicine has been recalled by suppliers.

Patient Safety alerts 

Patient Safety Alerts are issued by DoH when there is a potential risk to a patient. 

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