The Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care has written an open letter to thank pharmacy teams for their work during the COVID-19 outbreak and explain what the government has done so far to support community pharmacy.
Although she indicated that she has been listening to the concerns about capacity in community pharmacy there has so far been no significant additional funding announcements to support community pharmacy through COVID-19.
The minister highlighted in the letter that she had met with Simon Dukes of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) on Thursday 19 March. She spoke to Mr Dukes and also to Sandra Gidley, the President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society on Friday 20 March, 27th March & 2 April.
She outlined that the government had taken the following steps:
- Ceased requirement for clinical audits and eased administrative reporting to reduce the burden of bureaucracy on pharmacies.
- Delayed the introduction of new services.
- Last week, introduced legislation to enable the prioritisation of the remaining services to further reduce workload.
- Introduced the legislative framework to allow for local services to be commissioned enabling community pharmacists to supply medicines that patients have been previously prescribed without a further prescription and are working to extend this to controlled drugs.
- Working closely with the PSNC, put in place a new backstop medicines delivery service to support the 1.4 million most vulnerable who are being shielded from this outbreak as agreed with the PSNC.
- Confirmed that all pharmacy staff, including counter assistants, should be considered “key workers”, together with staff in the broader medicines supply chain.
In the letter she thanked pharmacy teams across the country:
“I want personally to thank you for your commitment to patients, the public and the NHS in these difficult times. I want you to know that all the Health Ministers are incredibly grateful for all of the work you are doing. We are living through unprecedented times and I recognise that pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and their teams across the country are providing an outstanding response to patients in challenging circumstances.
“The Government as a whole recognises that community pharmacy teams are on the frontline in providing medicines and health advice to many people. We also recognise the immense contribution being made by pharmacists in hospitals, GP surgeries and Clinical Commissioning Groups, your work is critical to the safe care of patients.
“Like most people I visit and talk to pharmacists regularly, meaning that I hear from you directly about how challenging the situation you face truly is. I know that you are all working incredibly hard to keep your communities safe and I want you to know that I fully understand these concerns and am committed to getting you what you need, to do the best for the people you serve.
“We recognise there are multiple challenges. Following changes to working practices across healthcare, community pharmacists are now, more than ever, the first point of contact with the health system for many people.
“I am also aware of the long hours that pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and all pharmacy staff are working across the system. Our response to these concerns about front-facing opening hours is that there is now flexibility in place to allow community pharmacies to regulate their hours to allow individual decision making on the best way to run their business. This allows pharmacists to focus on dispensing prescriptions and giving advice over the phone.”
This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.