PSNC advise against delivering services for free


The Pharmaceutical Service Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has called on community pharmacy contractors to stop the free of charge provision of services that fall clearly outside the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF).


The call from PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes follows reports from contractors who are increasingly being asked to pick up primary care work which would normally fall outside of pharmacies’ funded services.


PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes said:


“Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the UK we have heard from many contractors about the significant increases to their workload and the range of new ways in which they have had to support their patients and local communities. While some of this work is a core part of community pharmacy’s remit as a key local healthcare resource for local communities, other tasks now being asked of pharmacies fall outside the scope for which they are remunerated.


“PSNC has put a comprehensive business case to HM Government about contractors’ costs related to COVID-19 and we are in negotiation about that. We are also working to make the case for further funding uplifts. Thank you to all contractors who have provided evidence to support this.


“However, to date, with no further funding available, I have to advise contractors that given the very treacherous financial situation which many pharmacies are in, it is simply not possible for many to continue to offer extra services free of charge.


“This advice is not given lightly – of course all community pharmacies want to do all that they can for the benefit of their patients. But as a sector we have for many years offered services free of charge or at a tariff that does not even cover our costs, and this simply is not sustainable in the current funding environment. Without action to balance costs, the core professional services of pharmacies may all be at risk, and this would have a significant and detrimental impact on patients which must be avoided.


“Many businesses have already taken decisions to introduce charges for some services on a cost-recovery basis, and I would encourage contractors to explore this option where they can.”


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Volunteer medicine delivery service completes 50,000 deliveries


The volunteer medicine delivery service in Northern Ireland is being stopped at the end of August. Officials in the Province have said that now that there is no longer a requirement for certain groups to shield there is, therefore, a diminished need for the service.


The volunteer-led service introduced to support people who were shielding during the lockdown in Northern Ireland over recent months completed over 50,000 deliveries to patients.


In a letter to stakeholders in Northern Ireland Assistant Director of Integrated Care and Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management Joe Brogan commented:


“As part of the support for shielded people who were advised to isolate, HSCB had worked with the Community Pharmacies and the Community Development Health Network to put in place a volunteer delivery service for patient’s medicines. This arrangement has been operational for some months now and it is good to report that those pharmacies working with the volunteer groups to deliver medicines have completed over 50,000 deliveries to patients.


“As the Minister of Health has now relaxed the directions regarding shielding, the need to continue to utilise community volunteers is diminishing. Many volunteers are also returning to employed roles.


“The current arrangement with Community Pharmacies and the Community Volunteers is, therefore, being stood down on 31st August 2020.


“HSCB is in consultation with CPNI to introduce a newly commissioned service specification for the collection and delivery of medications to identified patients by Community Pharmacies, from 1st September 2020. This specification is currently being developed; this will also provide an option for the use of community volunteers where this is appropriate.


“The HSCB acknowledges the valued role that Community Pharmacies and Community Volunteers have provided to date during the Covid-19 emergency.


“Details on the commissioned service will follow as soon as they are finalised.”


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Volunteer EDF engineers deliver medicines for LloydsPharmacy


Around 25 volunteer engineers from energy company EDF will start delivering medicines to patients in The South and South West of England on behalf of LloydsPharmacy.


LloydsPharmacy has said that the demand for home delivery of prescriptions has significantly increased over the last few weeks due to COVID-19 and, like other businesses, LloydsPharmacy has also been dealing with higher than average absence rates amongst its employees.


EDF Smart Metering engineers that would normally be installing smart meters have stepped up to help their local communities as non-essential metering appointments been postponed.


The EDF volunteers have been matched to local pharmacies and have received virtual training on how they undertake their new role, the different types of deliveries they will be involved in and – above all – patient and driver safety and how to maintain social distancing.


Head of central operations for LloydsPharmacy, Lucy Robertson, said:


“We are incredibly proud of the work that our frontline pharmacy colleagues are doing to support their communities and provide the vital supply of medicines and advice they need through the pandemic.


“It’s important that we protect the most vulnerable, especially those who are shielded or self-isolating so we are prioritising home delivery of essential medicines for those groups. The EDF engineers are used to visiting people’s homes and therefore already have the appropriate security checks which was an additional factor when setting up this partnership.


“We are very grateful for the help that EDF has given us to make sure people receive their medicines safely and I know our customers will want to say a big thank you to them too.”


Philippe Commaret, managing director for customers at EDF, said:


“EDF is committed to serving our local communities, and this partnership with LloydsPharmacy is the latest in our efforts to ensure that the most vulnerable continue to receive the vital medicines they need during these challenging times. None of this would be possible without our exceptional team of volunteers and I thank them all for going above and beyond to support.”



Minister praises response to volunteer led medicines delivery service


Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann and Northern Ireland Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey have welcomed the ‘excellent response’ to a new volunteer-led scheme delivering medicines to patients.


The scheme is being coordinated by Community Development and Health Network to deliver medication during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Approaches to the delivery of medicines during the pandemic have varied across the UK in recent weeks.


In Scotland, the delivery of medicines to shielded patients has used volunteers but has been Health Board led. The English approach has been to fund an essential and advanced service.


This approach has come in for significant criticism. The safety of using volunteers to deliver medication has been questioned.


Amongst the confusion and in the midst of a fast-moving situation the RPS and the GPhC had to update their joint statement on the use of volunteers to deliver medicines during the pandemic following concerns being raised by healthcare lawyer Andrea James. Speaking after a PIP podcast she suggested that the initial statement could cause a false sense of security regarding the potential issues of vicarious liability with the English services.


Minister Swann said:


“It is vital that those who are unable to leave their home because of Covid-19 continue to get access to their medicines.  Many of us can rely on family members, friends, or local support for help.  However, there are people having to self-isolate who are experiencing difficulties and it is for those people that this service has been introduced.


“I am aware that community pharmacies have been working extremely hard to meet the increased demand for home deliveries of medicines within their communities.  I am greatly encouraged to report that over 170 pharmacies have signed up to the new scheme and 142 of them have been matched with a community or voluntary sector organisation.”


The Health and Social Care Board is continuing to work closely with the Community Development and Health Network (CDHN) to coordinate volunteer organisations who will provide vital support to community pharmacies.


CDHN Director Joanne Morgan said:


“CDHN have a long history of facilitating community pharmacists and local community organisations to work together to better understand and address health inequalities. We are very proud to witness that partnership ethos continued in this way. I am also particularly encouraged by the joint working between DoH and DfC to support delivery on the ground.”


Minister Hargey said:


“It is thanks to the work coordinated by Community Development Health Network and carried out by the volunteer network, including sporting organisations, that patients will continue to get their medicines.  During this outbreak, we have seen many excellent examples of volunteering in the battle against Covid-19. I believe this delivery scheme to be a great example of voluntary action which is designed to help the most vulnerable members of our community and I applaud the Community Development Health Network, the Health and Social Care Board and the many volunteers in their efforts to achieve this.”