Pharmacy Forum NI has responded to the Department of Health’s recent consultation on the new Substance Use Strategy for Northern Ireland entitled “Making Life Better – Preventing Harm and Empowering Recovery: A Strategic Framework to Tackle the Harm from Substance Use”.

Key points highlighted in our response:

  • A pathway for pharmacists to raise concerns

The Forum response highlighted that pharmacists are a huge focal point in the community with extensive contact with the public, and have asked that DoH introduces a pathway for pharmacists to raise a concern if they identify a patient/member of the public who is harming themselves. Pharmacy can act as an entry point for some of these services. We see this, currently, as a missed opportunity within our healthcare system.

  • Expansion of the Needle and Syringe Exchange Service

The Forum response highlighted that the Needle and Syringe Exchange Service is not sufficiently distributed throughout Northern Ireland. Gaps exist where there is need. Pharmacy Forum NI recommends that a more even distribution in service and access be introduced in order to improve uptake.

Our response also requested the prioritisation for the PHA to continue to develop and expand the Needle and Syringe Exchange Scheme, both within community pharmacies and within the community, to ensure adequacy of exchange services.

We have further asked DoH to take note that many community pharmacists have withdrawn from the scheme due to concerns about in-store health protection & safety, associated theft/crime, as well as remuneration shortfalls. We have asked that the department further notes that pharmacists are reticent to sign up to the scheme because of these issues and that local communities are not supportive of it for the same with claims that the service leads to anti-social behaviour in localities. These issues need to be addressed by the department to ensure that the success of the service across NI is not compromised.