Pharmacist describes how 96-year-old mother relies on service as it’s halted to new patients

A pharmacist whose 96-year-old mother relies on a service to help patients with medicines at home has said it should be commissioned and funded by the Department of Health.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 4:05 pm

Community pharmacists across Northern Ireland moved on Wednesday to stop accepting new patients onto the ‘medicines adherence service’, which involves daily tablets being organised in medicine trays.

Health Minister Robin Swann said yesterday that there is an “ongoing conversation” about funding for the service.

Dr Kate McClelland, a pharmacist based in Maghaberry village, said her mother is one of around 37,000 people who rely on the service.

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Dr McClelland said it is “vital” for both helping patients and reducing hospital admissions.

“I have a 96-year-old mother who gets her trays from a pharmacist in Belfast,” she said.

“She has lost a certain amount of dexterity in her hands, and she was dropping tablets from time to time. We didn’t know which ones had gone on the floor, which ones she had swallowed unless you could find it on the floor that morning.

“So it’s now changed [thanks to the Medicines Adherence Service]. She only has five tablets but those are a critical five tablets and they are counted out.”

She added: “Around half of hospital admissions for the elderly involve issues with medicaton.”

Mr Swann was asked about the stand-off between pharmacists and his department at the Assembly health committee yesterday.

Concerns were raised by the committee’s deputy chair, DUP MLA Pam Cameron.

Mr Swann said he is “disappointed to where we currently are”.

The minister added: “There is an ongoing conversation as regards to the next three-year delivery plan, which is going well.”

He added: “Disappointed community pharmacy owners actually refused an interim offer of £5m in regards to supporting them through the next four months which would’ve allowed the adherence support to be provided for new patients.”

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board, (HSCB) meanwhile, said: “HSCB has recognised this service provision through funding of £7m. A further funding stream of £7.5m has also been committed which contributes, at least in part, to this service. We recognise however, that many patients have come to rely on and expect this service and have offered community pharmacies a further interim funding package of £5m until the end of March 2022 to ensure the service can continue to be provided to new patients. This interim arrangement would help alleviate some of the current pressures.”