Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Tuesday, 25 October 2011 17:14 UK

Community Pharamacies

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay described local pharmacies as a "front line service", on 25 October 2011.

Mr McKay said that a number of pharmacies had closed in recent days, weeks and months and that at the last count 125 posts had been lost.

He was proposing a motion calling on the health minister to put a contingency plan in place to protect pharmacy services in rural areas.

Members were warned at the beginning of the debate that the issue of community pharmacies was currently the subject of a judicial review and they should be careful in making their speeches.

Health minister Edwin Poots made an intervention to object to a comment made by Mr McKay.

Mr Poots said he would very much like to engage with the pharmacists but could not due to the judicial review.

The DUP's Gordon Dunne noted the role played by pharmacists in the community.

"The public build up relationships and trust their local chemists," he commented.

Sam Gardiner of the UUP called on the minister to ringfence funding.

The SDLP's Mark Durkan said the current arrangements did not seem to be working. He spoke of some pharmacies "staring into an abyss". He called on the minister to act immediately

The Alliance party's Kieran McCarthy paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of pharmacists. He said he had been disappointed to hear that the minister had said Northern Ireland had 100 too many pharmacies compared to other regions.

Health minister Edwin Poots began by reiterating that he would like to have sat down around the table with the pharmacists but had been constrained in what he could do due to the judicial review.

He gave figures to show that Northern Ireland had a higher number of pharmacies per head of population than other parts of the UK.

The minister laid down the issues concerning funding of pharmacies as he saw them.

He said £568m was being spent on drugs in each year.

Mr Poots described this figure as "unacceptable".

"What we are spending on drugs in Northern in is, in my opinion, out of hand," he said.

Summing up, the minister advised members that the minor ailments scheme was still in place if they were suffering from, "diarrhoea, lice, threadworms, vaginal thrush, athlete's foot, or fungal infection of the groin".

The motion was passed on an oral vote.

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