PDA welcome reversal of decision to exclude community pharmacists


The UK government have reversed their decision to exclude community pharmacists from the coronavirus compensation scheme in England.


The PDA has welcomed the u-turn by the Secretary of State Matt Hancock and praised pharmacists for their professional unity.


The Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced a change to the scope of the coronavirus compensation scheme with an early morning tweet on Thursday 30 April.


An outraged profession had reacted with anger at the original decision not to include community pharmacists within the scope of the scheme.


The PDA told PIP that as soon as the scheme was first announced they wrote to Mr Hancock requesting that he confirm community pharmacists would be included in scope and making it clear that the profession would consider it “perverse and wrong” if they were not, However, Department of Health officials responded to requests for clarity on the scheme details by saying the decision had been made to exclude those practising in community pharmacy.


Paul Day, PDA Director said:


“We firstly want to commend our members in hospitals and GP practices who contacted us yesterday to ask what they could do to ensure the government changed their policy to include colleagues in community pharmacy.  We believe in professional unity, standing up for each other is in our DNA, that’s partly why we are so proud to be called the ‘union’ . It was that unity, with pharmacists across the country expressing their concern,  that forced the government to change their position.”


“We were never going to let that original decision stand and reflecting the mood of our members we were actively exploring a range of further actions, with nothing ruled out. This morning we praised the Wales Government for confirming that their scheme would include community pharmacists and encouraged England to match the decision. Less than an hour later we were in a meeting discussing our plans for further action today when Mr Hancock made his tweet”.


The PDA thanked Mr Hancock for doing the right thing.


The PDA has said that they are now expecting Northern Ireland and Scotland to also respect those in the community pharmacy sector and confirm community pharmacists will be covered by their schemes.





Community pharmacists in England included in death in service scheme


In a statement made in a tweet this morning, Matt Hancock MP has confirmed that community pharmacists in England will be included in the death in service benefit.


It is so far unclear as to whether pharmacy teams will be included in the scheme in England.


The scheme recognises the increased risk faced by staff during the crisis and will cover coronavirus related deaths of workers in frontline health and adult and children’s social care roles during the outbreak. It will cover staff who provide hands-on personal care for people who have contracted coronavirus or work in health or care settings where the virus is present.


Bereaved family members will receive a £60,000 lump sum worth roughly twice the average pensionable pay for NHS staff, with the cost met by the government.


This morning Matt Hancock confirmed in a tweet that community pharmacists in England would be covered. He said:


“I’m glad to be able to confirm that community pharmacists are included in our death in service benefits. Because they are employed in a different way, it is arranged in a different way, but pharmacists are a vital part of our NHS family. They are of course covered.”


Responding to the announcement, RPS President Sandra Gidley said:


“We would like to thank the government for listening to concerns raised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the profession about including pharmacists in the death in service benefit scheme. We look forward to receiving similar assurances from the Scottish Government and have already received them from the Welsh Government.


“We very much hope this offer extends to pharmacy teams, as well as all pharmacists who support the public on the frontline. We will be seeking clarification about this with government officials, along with other detail about how the scheme will work in practice.  As the professional body, the RPS wants to be involved in any further conversation taking place on this. We will be it raising with the Pharmacy Minister Jo Churchill at our regular weekly meeting with her.


Chair of the RPS in England Professor Claire Anderson said: “Pharmacists are risking their lives every day through face-to-face contact with the public.  We must make sure our frontline teams are fully protected with PPE and considered part of the NHS family.  We should never have had to have this battle, which has demoralised many in our profession. In future, we expect the nation’s third largest health profession to be included in key government announcements on policy affecting our NHS colleagues.”




Death in service scheme to cover community pharmacy in Wales


In a statement yesterday Vaughan Gething has confirmed that community pharmacy in Wales will be included in the death in service benefit.


The scheme recognises the increased risk faced by staff during the crisis and will cover coronavirus related deaths of workers in frontline health and adult and children’s social care roles during the outbreak. It will cover staff who provide hands-on personal care for people who have contracted coronavirus or work in health or care settings where the virus is present.


Bereaved family members will receive a £60,000 lump sum worth roughly twice the average pensionable pay for NHS staff, with the cost met by the government.


In a statement yesterday Vaughan Gething commented:


“Sadly, we continue to see deaths on a daily basis. Everyone is a tragic loss for families, friends and communities affected. Understanding and acknowledging the numbers of people who are dying is important to all of us, including Ministers. Yesterday, we published a report following the identification on 23 April of a significant number of deaths that had not been reported to Public Health Wales. The actions identified within the report that I published yesterday have already been put in place, and, of course, they were covered in earlier questions to the First Minister.


“Yesterday, many of us stood in silence for a minute to remember workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus or work-related accidents or ill health. On Monday, I announced that families of NHS Wales and social care workers who die in service as a result of COVID-19 will be entitled to financial support with the payment of £60,000. That is in addition to any other existing pension arrangements.


“I know that our front-line workers are going above and beyond to care for vulnerable patients every day, and this scheme gives equal recognition to staff across health, social care and community pharmacy. It provides a safety net for eligible staff who have delivered front-line services and who may not, perhaps, have been eligible to join the pension scheme or decided not to because of affordability, but also to those already in a pension scheme. I hope this will be of some help during a difficult time, although, of course, I recognise that a lump sum payment does not recognise the loss of life.”






RPS demands death in service benefits for pharmacy teams


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is ‘demanding’ urgent clarification from the Prime Minister and governments across Great Britain about the inclusion of pharmacy teams in their new death in service benefit.

New arrangements have been announced in England and Wales, with Scotland due to announce the detail of its scheme on Friday.


RPS have said that they are deeply concerned about the applicability of these schemes to pharmacists and strongly believe that all health and care workers should be included.


They have sought urgent clarification from the Welsh, Scottish and Westminster governments and have now been assured that in Wales community pharmacy teams will be included. However, they have said that they are yet to receive similar assurances from England and Scotland.

There has been widespread disappointment in the sector in relation to the fact that pharmacy teams have not been included.


Sandra Gidley, RPS President, said:


“It is truly shocking that governments would choose to exclude pharmacy teams from their death in service benefits at a time when they are going above and beyond to provide NHS services both in primary and secondary care.

“This news came with no prior engagement with the pharmacy profession and has been a bitter blow to the thousands of pharmacists putting themselves at risk every day when they care for patients.

“Now is the time for governments to step up and show their appreciation for the commitment these teams are demonstrating, and the NHS services they are providing.  All pharmacists and their teams must be included immediately in the death in service benefits being provided to frontline staff.”




Outrage that pharmacy is excluded from death in service benefit


I am absolutely appalled by the fact that community pharmacy teams don’t appear to have been included in the recent announcement of a £60,000 death in service benefit.


It has become clear that pharmacists, yes pharmacists, can only apply in exceptional circumstances and the scheme can consider them if those exceptional circumstances are accepted.


This is nonsense.


Pharmacy teams consist of other members of staff not, just pharmacists. We’ve got counter assistants who are risking their own personal health and wellbeing often for minimum wage. We’ve got other members of staff as well who are not going to be well paid whereas you’ve got people within the NHS pension scheme who will already be covered by death in service benefit.


Pharmacy teams are not eligible to apply for the NHS pension scheme and will then not be covered by that benefit. It will also, apparently only apply if the member of staff is providing ‘hands-on’ care.


Pharmacy teams are doing that.


We may not be incubating patients, we may not be giving them CPR etcetera but we are providing face to face care. We are the only part of the primary care family that has an open-door policy. We’ve got to have our doors open.


NHS England will only allow us to shut 2.5 hours a day. We have to see patients.


It’s ludicrous to think that a pharmacy is not providing face to face care in areas where there are known COVID-19 cases.


Most patients will COVID-19 are going to be a-symptomatic we don’t know who has COVID and yet anyone can walk through our doors. This is an absolute joke and it has to be stopped.


I need to say to Matt Hancock and Joe Churchill that this is an absolutely ludicrous situation. Community pharmacy is the only part of primary care that has been seeing patients and yet they are potentially excluded from this death in service benefit.


In the long term, we need to look and see if pharmacists and pharmacy teams should be eligible for the NHS pension scheme because we are taking the same risks on as everyone else.


In the short term, you need to do the right thing.


That means giving the option for bereaved families access to this death in service benefit.


At the moment we have suffered three deaths in pharmacy circles that I know of, two community pharmacists and one ACT. There is a third pharmacist but that’s a hospital pharmacist but is still part of our pharmacy family.


So how can those same groups of people taking the same risks to be treated differently?


This is simply ludicrous.


We have dentists, most of which are not seeing patients anymore who are included in the scheme. We have GP practices also included in the scheme.


However, the third arm of the primary care, the invisible limb of primary care, which is community pharmacy right now happy to mandate that we open on bank holidays, happy to tell us what we’ve got to do but always there seems to be a caveat.


No ifs, no buts we must be included in this scheme.



Mike Hewitson is an independent pharmacy contractor. He is also a Councillor for Stoke & Norton Sub Hamdon, South Somerset District Council. His views are his own.