Cuts lead to axing of health checks

GORDONS Chemists which has almost 50 outlets across Northern Ireland, including Ballymoney and Bushmills, has cancelled what it calls “potentially life saving” New Year health checks in the wake of the pharmacy cuts imposed by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

More than 1,000 people availed of the free New Year healthchecks provincewide in January 2011, however Gordons Chemists, as with all other community pharmacies across Northern Ireland, has suffered cuts of approximately 30% in core funding since April 2011.

John Clark, General Manager, Gordons Chemists, said: “The new year healthchecks involved pharmacists assessing blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels. Over the past two years, over 400 people have been referred, following their tests at Gordons Chemists, to their GP, and some of these were then immediately referred for vital hospital treatment. “It is extremely regrettable that we have had to cancel the 2012 campaign. We are also reconsidering offering free healthchecks at this year’s Balmoral Show which, in previous years, tested more than 1,000 show-goers each year.

“The community based testing and health promotion offered in the new year healthchecks is an example of the types of activity pharmacy is ideally placed to provide now and in the future. The people of our local communities are at the heart of our goals as a pharmacy chain but the cuts within the pharmacy budget have left us no alternative but to cancel this potentially life saving new year health initiative.

“As these tests were available on the High Street, without an appointment, people who may not have visited their GP until they had serious symptoms can be detected earlier. This early detection, subsequent early diagnosis and treatment, saves the health service time and money in the future and in addition, secures better long term outcomes for the patient.

“We welcomed the recent statement made by the Minister of Health, Edwin Poots MLA on the Compton Review. In his remarks on the review of health service he acknowledged the role of pharmacy in medicines management and the prevention of disease. We hope that as we move forward in 2012 that there will be a speedy resolution to the current difficulties within the sector and that community pharmacists can have an opportunity to further develop their role as highly accessible members of the healthcare team,” said Mr Clark.