Leading NI medic suggests ‘free’ solution as patients request over-the-counter products on prescription amid cost of living crisis

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The elevated cost of living crisis is reportedly placing extra stress on GPs throughout Northern Ireland, resulting from a rising quantity of prescription requests for medicines that individuals may in any other case purchase over-the-counter.

r Alan Stout from the British Medical Association mentioned that is yet another factor including to pressures on the health service in NI, citing in depth ready lists and the cost of living affecting patients’ psychological health as different points.

“What we’re seeing is individuals who usually would have purchased a product over-the-counter – it’s perhaps enhanced in the mean time as a result of we’re in hayfever season – however they’re saying ‘could you please just give me a prescription for it instead, I don’t wish to pay for it’,” he defined to BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme. 

“We absolutely sympathise with that and we aren’t ready as GPs to enter into any kind of a battle with our patients, notably ones we all know which are struggling, however what it really does is enhance the cost to the health service as an entire, and likewise will increase the stress on GPs.”

Dr Stout believes the solution is to make sure medicines for minor illnesses free to everybody “and then make it as easy as possible to allow people to get them for free”.

“It might be as easy as having an enormous bucket in a GP workplace, in a group pharmacy or a wholesome living centre,” he added.

Dr Terry Maguire, director of the Ulster Chemists Association, agreed that “access is the issue” and believes the Pharmacy First scheme must be “expanded dramatically” to cope with this.

“Pharmacy needs to get some resource so that it’s not just about dishing out medicines, but making sure people have someone they can speak to, to reassure them the condition they have is common and will go away, perhaps with the use of medicine, but very often patients don’t need medicines at all,” he commented.

The Pharmacy First service was initially launched to Northern Ireland in 2005, and referral into the service contains referral from GP practices, the group pharmacist or self-referral by the affected person.

Using this service, which is free of cost, the pharmacist can provide recommendation or medicines for remedy of sure illnesses, to appropriate patients.

“If it was done properly and if it was properly resourced, then doctors’ systems would actually be referring people to pharmacies and saying ‘that is the mechanism you go through’.”

Dr Maguire added that the system have to be handled as a two-way avenue, in that pharmacies additionally want entry to GPs, and that the referral procedures have to be improved.

He mentioned that if he must refer a affected person on with one thing that seems to be extra severe than a minor ailment, “I need to have confidence that my referral will get that person to the right medical professional”.

“The system is being developed and needs to be pushed on. It’s not about dishing out meds, it’s about supporting people in taking care of themselves,” he added.

“In Scotland, pharmacies can get a wider vary of medicines and have higher jurisdiction in making choices for patients 

“The solution is in the support and expansion of Pharmacy First.” 

In the west of Northern Ireland, calls have just lately been made for GP providers to be instantly contracted amid fears of an impending crisis. 

Dromore and Trillick Surgery, which is believed to have virtually 6,000 patients on its books, is because of shut on the finish of this month — prompting fears it may result in the collapse of neighbouring practices.

Earlier this 12 months, the health Minister mentioned that “some more work” is required to make sure patients in Northern Ireland can entry GPs and acknowledged that there have been longstanding issues with the GP system in NI. 

Pointing to modifications made in phrases of coaching and the GP workforce, he mentioned that in 2022/23 there will likely be a “record” 121 GP coaching locations in Northern Ireland.

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