The Chief Executive of the umbrella body of local pharmacists, Community Pharmacy NI is expected to press the case for the Department of Health to urgently address the funding gap currently facing the profession at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council next week. 
Gerard Greene will also be joined by a delegation of local pharmacists from across Fermanagh and Omagh who will outline their case to the Councillors at a meeting on Tuesday (October 9).
The presentation comes as the petition backing community pharmacy has now reached over 130,000 signatures which shows significant public support for action to be taken.  
Prior to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the last Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, outlined a commitment to continue to develop and resource community pharmacy-based initiatives over the next 10 years. 
However, this is now in jeopardy due to the fact that the Department of Health is under funding the cost of providing community pharmacy services by at least £20 million.
This funding shortfall has been compounded in recent months by unprecedented generic medicines shortages leaving community pharmacists and their staff with a daily struggle to find many of the medicines needed by their patients. 
When they do source the items required, they can find themselves paying more than ten times the usual price, all without knowing if they will be fully reimbursed.
Community pharmacies have a vital role in delivering community-based healthcare services and the promotion of well-being, with around 123,000 people visiting a community pharmacy every day.
It is often the first point of contact for people to the health service and it is also the last point of contact for those receiving prescribed medication.
Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, told The Impartial Reporter: “Community pharmacists are at breaking point as the realities of managing their businesses on a day to day basis, whilst serving patients and customers, is causing severe strain.
“The cost of providing the community pharmacy service is hugely underfunded due to a shortfall in what the Department of Health is willing to allocate, and the cost of keeping community pharmacies open.
“The real impact is that eight in ten of the business owning community pharmacists have told us that the funding situation is having an impact on their own health and wellbeing. Some contractors have told us that they are reaching breaking point. This is unacceptable and must be urgently addressed,” he said. 
Mr. Greene said the lack of an Executive and a Minister for Health is “a hindrance to putting right the chronic situation we are in at present.”
“But we have full cross-party backing to unlock the critical financial support needed and a Memorandum of Understanding endorsed by the previous Health Minister Michelle O’Neill to deliver contractual arrangements which would provide fair and reasonable remuneration.
“We now need the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health to follow through with this commitment and support and release the funding to arrest the decline within community pharmacy.” 
“We are calling for clear and fair remuneration and reimbursement so that investment can take place to meet safety, quality and efficacy requirements. At present that just does not exist,” he said.