HEALTH Minister Michelle O’Neill has been in West Belfast to hear about the integrated working arrangements between GP surgeries and pharmacies in the area.

During her visit the Minister took in Cooper’s Pharmacy and Riverdale Surgery on the Andersonstown Road and the Springfield Road GP practice.

The Minister said she appreciate the challenges facing GP-led services and the fact that demand for GP-led services is increasing.

“I am committed to developing a long-term plan to ensure that GP services continue to provide high quality care to the population on a sustainable basis,” she said.

“I have invested £1.7million in practice-based pharmacists this year to help ease some of the GP workload and improve the service for patients.”

Having pharmacists in all GP practices will allow GPs to spend more time with patients and improve patient outcomes; their specialist knowledge of medicines will also improve appropriate and safe prescribing through medication reviews and help reduce errors and waste.

Following on from the surgery visit the Minister went to speak with the community pharmacy team at Cooper’s Chemists.

“Altogether community pharmacies here in the north of Ireland dispensed over 40 million prescription items last year and their unequalled access to patients provides them with the opportunity to promote wellbeing through the best use of medicines and healthy lifestyles.

“With a growing population presenting with more long-term complex needs, getting the best outcomes from the medicines that are prescribed and supplied can help reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment and alleviate the burden on acute care.

“This surgery is an excellent example of the direct benefits of the Pharmacists in Practice initiative and clearly demonstrates improved patient outcomes for the people in this area of Belfast.”