Today marks World Pharmacists Day. The aim of the day is to bring attention to pharmacies and the positive benefits they offer when it comes to health and well being. Although it is hard to believe, Belfast entered the 1790s without any type of public pharmacy.
Members of the Belfast Charitable Society attempted to open the first pharmacy or dispensary as it was known in 1792. An advert was placed in the Belfast Newsletter, calling on subscribers to put forward an annual donation which would allow a dispensary to deal with up to 600 patients per year. It was hoped the dispensary could deal with mild cases of illness or injury and prevent the need for more intensive and costly treatment. In April 1792 is was finally agreed the Dispensary should open from 9.00 until 3.00pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with the provision that accidents could be treated at any time.
The Dispensary struggled for donations, but carried out what work it could for a number of years. In 1799, it was finally able to rent property in West Street and dispensed medicines to individuals and the Poor House. The Poor House, Dispensary and Fever Hospital worked closely together in the early part of the 19th Century in Belfast to cure and manage as many conditions as possible. Medical professionals such as Dr James McDonnell, Dr William Halliday and Dr Mattear worked to ensure the success of the Dispensary and it provided invaluable help to the residents of Belfast. The Belfast Dispensary became the pre-cursor to the Royal Victoria Hospital which received its charter in 1899.