TWO local Newry pharmacists (names excluded for confidentiality reasons) have expressed their fears for the health and well-being of their patients.
One of the main problems these health care professionals have sited is patients coming into their practices who do not have a prescription as they cannot contact their GP.
"We had one patient come in and tell us she tried to ring her GP 19 times. Then there is the case if you don't get through you are cut off, then they come back to us, and we do what we can. We can give them an emergency supply to do them until they can get speaking to someone to re-order their prescription.
"It does not bother us doing this, but it's adding on to our daily workload; it would just be much easier if the patient was able to get their prescription ordered at the time needed to. Instead of us giving them a supply then they are coming back for the remainder of the supply, timewise for everyone, it makes no sense. "
There have been numerous times where the pharmacists have had to ring the surgeries with enquiries themselves and the phone lines have been disconnected:
"There are times we would need to call, and the phone lines are switched off. For example, say they are open from 9:00am, and depending on the surgery, it might be from 9am-1pm and then 2pm-5pm. However, we have tried at 11:30am and we got a voice message saying the clinic was now closed, but se know they are not closed."
"This is then leading to people not bothering to call, and then their prognosis is worse and treatment is harder and more difficult to treat, it's just snowballing."
I was informed that the pharmacists can write a prescription for a few days’ supply legally. This was allowed because of the covid pandemic legislation. However, the ladies have noticed they are having to do this more and more frequently.
One patient had rung her GP after badly wounding her foot but was told she had to wait 10 days for an appointment. She later found out that the cut had become infected, and that if this woman had been a diabetic this could have led to an ulceration that may have eventually resulted in amputating the limb.
The pharmacists relayed the story of a patient who has faced numerous distressing problems when trying contact her GP.
"One of our patients came into us the other day in tears, she lives on her own and had rung the clinic vur could not get through. She then paid for a taxi to the clinic and a member of their staff shouted at her for coming down. I know people are under pressure, but you can't do that. Nobody would like any member of their family spoke to like that.”
The pharmacists believe that even over the past two years when covid was at its highest, they had never witnessed it being this bad:
"How bad do things need to get? Something bad is going to happen here, and it's going to be too late."