NI Lead Medic Offers ‘Free’ Solution as Patients Request OTC Prescription Products Amid Cost of Living Crisis

The rising cost of living crisis is reportedly putting more pressure on GPs across Northern Ireland due to a growing number of requests for prescriptions for medicines that people could otherwise buy without a prescription.

r Alan Stout of the British Medical Association said it was another issue that was adding to the strain on the health service in New York State, citing extensive waiting lists and the cost of living affecting patients’ mental health as other concerns.

“What we’re seeing is people who would normally buy a product without a prescription – maybe it’s improved at the moment because we’re in hay fever season – but they’re like, ‘Could you just give me a prescription for him instead “I don’t want to pay for this,” he explained to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster.

“We are totally sympathetic to this and we, as general practitioners, cannot get into any kind of conflict with our patients, especially those we know are struggling, but in fact it adds to the cost of the healthcare service as a whole. and also increases the workload for general practitioners.”

Dr. Stout thinks the solution is to make certain medicines for minor illnesses free for everyone, “and then make sure people can get them for free.”

“It can be as simple as having a big bucket in a GP’s office, a community pharmacy, or a health center,” he added.

Dr. Terry Maguire, director of the Ulster Chemist’s Association, agreed that “the problem is access” and believes that “a significant expansion of the Pharmacy First scheme” is needed to address this problem.

“Pharmacists need to get some kind of resource to not only dispense medicines but make sure people have someone they can talk to to reassure them that their condition is common and will probably go away.” , with the use of drugs, but very often patients do not need drugs at all,” he commented.

Pharmacy First was originally introduced in Northern Ireland in 2005 and referral to the service includes a referral from GPs, a district pharmacist or a patient self-referral.

Using this free service, a pharmacist can give advice or medicines for certain conditions to suitable patients.

“If it was done right and if it was properly resourced, then the doctor systems would actually be directing people to pharmacies and saying, ‘This is the mechanism you’re going through.’

Dr. Maguire added that the system should be treated as a two-way street because pharmacies also need access to general practitioners and that referral procedures need to be improved.

He said that if he needs to refer a patient with something more serious than a mild ailment, “I need to be sure that my referral will get that person to the right healthcare provider.”

“The system is being developed and needs to be promoted. This is not about distributing medicines, but about supporting people in taking care of themselves,” he added.

“In Scotland, pharmacies can get a wider range of medicines and have more jurisdiction to make decisions for patients.

“The solution is to support and expand Pharmacy First.”

In the west of Northern Ireland, there have been recent calls for direct contracting for GP services due to fears of a looming crisis.

Dromore and Trillick Surgery, which is believed to have nearly 6,000 patients, is due to close at the end of this month, raising concerns it could cause neighboring clinics to collapse.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Health said “more work” was needed to ensure patients in Northern Ireland had access to GPs and acknowledged the long-standing problems with the NI GP system.

Pointing to the changes made in terms of GP training and workforce, he said that in 2022/23 Northern Ireland will have a “record” of 121 places for GP training.