Layer 1

Pharmacies can supply meds without responsible pharmacist in emergency

Pharmacy staff must have access to a pharmacist by phone or video link

Pharmacies left without a responsible pharmacist or locum cover will not have to shut their doors during the COVID-19 outbreak, pharmacy regulators have said.

During these “highly challenging circumstances”, pharmacy staff might need to depart from established procedures to care for patients, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) CEO Duncan Rudkin and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) CEO Trevor Patterson said in a joint statement published yesterday (March 18).

Where the responsible pharmacist “unavoidably has to leave the pharmacy at short notice part-way through the day” because they are “unwell and need to self-isolate”, patients should still be able to collect their medicines, the regulators agreed.

“Where no locum cover can be secured at the pharmacy, and recognising the potential effects of the current pandemic, it would be in the patient’s best interest for medicines already dispensed to be supplied from the pharmacy rather than not supplied at all, even though this may not be in strict accordance with the law as normally understood,” Mr Rudkin and Mr Patterson wrote.

A GPhC spokesperson told C+D today (March 19) that it would not be necessary for pharmacists to notify the regulator if they had to leave the pharmacy without a locum cover first being found.

Support and directions

The GPhC and PSNI said that in such circumstances they “expect there to be access to a pharmacist by phone or video link to provide direction for the remaining staff in the pharmacy”.

“The pharmacy regulators will support pharmacy professionals in the front line making this judgement in patients’ best interests,” they added.

No other option

The regulators specified that this solution “should only be adopted for a short time period, where other options have been exhausted”.

“Except in such exceptional circumstances”, pharmacies must make arrangements for a pharmacist to be at the premises, “even in the current pandemic situation”, the GPhC and PSNI added.

The GPhC announced earlier this week that it has suspended all routine inspections to help pharmacy staff deal with the consequences of the virus.

It also said it will still fulfil its role of regulator by moving to a “supportive phase”, answering queries and providing support to pharmacy owners and staff.

Do you welcome the regulators' announcement?

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

The end of community pharmacists was written on the wall years ago. If Covid-19 isn't the final nail in the coffin, then it'll be Amazon. Wake up, smell the coffee and change jobs quickly.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Pharmacy will change, pharmacy must change.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

We are truly now the Invisible Profession. Ignored by the NHS, Blanked by GPs, only noticed by the DoH as a means of saving money by closing us down, never mentioned in the media, No effective representation, No voice and disappearing rights.
It's only right that shortly even our patients, who at least appreciate us, won't be able to see us as we won't be there.
I can see how this emergency ruling will help some patients in a few cases. The knock on effect will be huge. Anyone who thinks that it won't be abused after the dust has settled is far too naive to be let out alone.

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

''patient appreciate us''?? You gotta be kidding me.

Noel Wardle, Senior Management

This seems like a sensible approach, but have they checked with the MHRA (which is the regulator that would ordinarily police unlawful supplies of medicines) that it will also turn a blind eye to supplies in these circumstances?

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

The only reason for them to be absent (if not ill) is to buy food before the hysterical public empty the shelves. There are enough pharmacists. Why do they want to work in these conditions?

The public will turn their attention to pharmacies very soon with Easter approaching. If surgeries are actively avoiding patients for most consultations already, then dwindling numbers of pharmacy staff will present a significant problem.

There is a threat of violence on the premises. A range of supermarket staff has told me how idiotic everyone is acting.

Community Pharmacy is not exempt - best wishes to those in the trenches. Stay safe.

David Kent, Community pharmacist

With a 19% increase in pharmacists on the register this year there is no need for any dispensing to be undertaken without a pharmacist present.

John Boey, Community pharmacist

This can only be realistically done by large multiples or corporate. Small independents only have one set of staff working full time (maybe up to 1 1/2). If the RP gets quarantined, everyone else in the shift he is in may have to depending on how the RP was exposed.

This announcement is both precise and vague at the same time. Ok, RP has to isolate because he got called by the Health Dept to do so. What can the staff do, continue dispensing? Continue GSL and P sales? What if you have no senior staff then? What about Methadone/subutex supervised consumption for pts who have yet to come even though everything is already preped earlier in the morning? Hell, CD dispensing in general.

Dee dee, Community pharmacist

There is an abundance of pharmacists. This is an opportunistic reaction to a problem that does not exist. It is also quite clearly illegal. The regulator has disgustingly taken advantage of a crisis to (illegally) usher in remote supervision. Where is the evidence base that this step was required? The multiples will be rubbing thier hands with glee, seeing this as an opportunity to increase the bottom line at the expense of patient safety.  Also, who takes responsibility for errors made or fatalities caused? Absolutely reprehensible decision. 


David Kent, Community pharmacist

This further debases the worth of the pharmacist.  Many employers will be very pleased not to look for locums and let dispensing assistants to take charge whicch, of course, costs them less.


Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Still vague. What about scripts not checked off yet? Or urgent antibiotics script with a walk in? I would check it off by FaceTime. The patient comes first. End of. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Technically, for the sake of argument, what would be the issue with clinical checking or accuracy checking over a digital medium?

Gary Choo, Superintendent Pharmacist

We are all human. We can get the virus too. Even managers for multiples! Owners cannot afford to self isolate.

Michael Mustoe, Community pharmacist

Please stop whining. It's pitiful to read. Pull together, give the best service possible and go above and beyond. Please

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Every other healthcare professional has shown a far greater extent of professionalism than what I read about pharmacists, in my opinion. I am honestly embarrassed.

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

The big chains have finally got what they wanted for years - to get rid of pharmacists while being able to keep pharmacies opened! This gonna get abused MASSIVELY by the multiples (especially the shoe company) and locum rates insta crashing! 

nawaz mohamed, Locum pharmacist

A slippery slope. When they mean 'supply', do you they mean hand out checked prescriptions, or an ACT/dispenser clinically checking and handing out fresh prescription? Under no circumstances, including this, should a pharmacy be without any link to a pharmacist.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

There is no reason why clinical checking cannot be done remotely.

For accuracy checking, you don't need someone with a degree to play spot the difference.

David Kent, Community pharmacist

Ridiculous suggestion.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

cue .......the multiples and owners to abuse this

Andrew Nicholson, Community pharmacist

Don't tar every pharmacy contractor with the same brush!

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

i dont mean all independents....

Job of the week

Pharmacist Manager
North Wales