Statement on community pharmacy services

Date published: 06 April 2023


It is extremely regrettable that community pharmacy representatives have advised that access to rota pharmacies in some parts of Northern Ireland will be reduced over the Easter holidays.

Department of Health statement

They have also stated that despite a commitment of recurrent investment, support for new patients assessed by Trusts as requiring blister packs may be restricted. These actions have the potential to impact on patients and other parts of the Health and Social Care system.

We fully understand that many sectors across health and social care are seeking additional funding.

However, recent representations from CPNI in respect of an increase of up to 50% for their sector are unrealistic, particularly in the current financial climate. Financial pressures across the entire NI public sector are severe with an extremely challenging health budget anticipated for 2023/24.

The Department is therefore facing a significant funding gap just to maintain existing services and the whole Health and Social Care system is an extremely unpredictable and fragile position. 

The core funding envelope available to community pharmacies in NI has increased by 16% over the past three years.

Research conducted by the Department has shown that the level of government funding for community pharmacies in NI compares very favourably with other parts of the UK.

Advice on Easter weekend rota pharmacies

The Department has been informed that number of community pharmacies are unwilling to provide a rota service this Easter Sunday (9 April).

The public is advised to go to their local pharmacy during normal opening hours this week and on Saturday 8 April in particular to collect their prescriptions and avail of pharmacy services. There will be some pharmacy rota provision on Easter Sunday but not necessarily in the normal areas. The Department appreciates that some pharmacies will continue to provide rota services this Easter despite the current difficulties.

Further details on the availability of rota is available on the hscbusiness website.


Notes to editors: 

  1. Community pharmacies play a pivotal role in delivering health services to communities in Northern Ireland.
  2.  Significant additional investment in the community pharmacy sector was made between 2019/20 and 2021/22 to ensure that community pharmacies could provide essential frontline support during the COVID-19 emergency.
  3. Constructive engagement also led to the agreement of a three-year Commissioning Plan for 2022-25 supported by a dedicated work programme, staffing resource and significant financial investment. The core funding envelope available to community pharmacies has increased by 16% over the past three years, with additional funding also made available to provide new services such as vaccination. 
  4. The Department’s priority is the sustainable provision of pharmacy services that meet the needs of the population of Northern Ireland. A recently commissioned objective review of the sustainability of community pharmacy services has outlined that our population continues to be well provided with community pharmacy services, with access comparing favourably to equivalent services in Great Britain and with other primary care services in Northern Ireland.
  5. The number of community pharmacies per head of population in NI is 35% higher than in England, 21% higher than in Scotland and 24% higher than in Wales.
  6. Adjusting for higher use of medicines in NI still results in a higher rate of community pharmacy provision compared with the rest of the UK with 11% more pharmacies per item dispensed than in England. 
  7. The level of government funding for community pharmacies compares very favourably with England and Scotland rates and is on a par with Wales.
  8. The Department remains committed to a collaborative relationship with CPNI based on realistic expectations around what we can commission and fund on a sustainable basis, and to do this through open and honest dialogue.
  9. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by e-mail
  10. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt 
  11. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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