General practitioner Northern Ireland

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Practice-based pharmacists decision delayed

BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee chair Tom Black at BMA House

A decision on the long-term future of GP practice-based pharmacists in Northern Ireland has been delayed.

GP federations are hoping to introduce pharmacists in all practices in the country as a way of addressing the increasing workload in primary care.

A £1m funding pot is to be made available to GP federations for the scheme in 2015/16 following an agreement between BMA Northern Ireland and the Health and Social Care Board in October.

However, a decision on funding beyond that point has been held up after the board was asked for further detail by the DHSSPS (Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety).

BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee chair Tom Black said he was disappointed with the delay to the scheme, which aims to see practice-employed pharmacists in all 17 GP federations over the next two years.

‘It is disappointing that the DHSSPS approval is becoming bogged down in bureaucracy but we are working closely with department officials to speed this process up,’ he said.

‘General practice is in crisis and needs innovative schemes such as this … to help with the overwhelming workload GPs and their staff are experiencing. Failure to act will result in reduced access for patients.’

A spokesperson for the board said: ‘The [board] has been working since July 2014 with NIGPC to develop arrangements for federation-employed practice-based pharmacists and £1m will be made available to federations for practice-based pharmacists in 2015/16.

‘Arrangements beyond this are dependent on the DHSSPS approval of a business case.’

The spokesperson added that the board submitted a business case in April but the DHSSPS subsequently requested further work be undertaken to refine it.