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Everything pharmacy teams need to know about COVID-19

On March 18, NHS England pledged to protect pharmacies’ income

With the COVID-19 pandemic creating news at breakneck speed, C+D presents all the essential information on the topic to help pharmacists manage the crisis

It can be tricky to keep up with the news about COVID-19. To ease the process, C+D has collected a summary of all its coverage on the virus’s impact on pharmacy, so readers can find everything affecting them in one article. The feed is divided into pharmacy news, supply news, clinical information and opinion articles.

This page will be updated with future C+D articles on COVID-19.

Click on the link to jump to the section impact of COVID-19 on pharmacy that you need:

How is pharmacy being affected?

What is happening to the supply of healthcare products?

What clinical information do I need to know?

Where are the C+D long-reads about the pandemic?

What do pharmacy professionals think about the crisis?

Pharmacy updates

April 22: There was a “significant rise” in the number of fitness to practise concerns it received in March, according to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

April 21: A campaign to recognise the contribution community pharmacy has made during the COVID-19 pandemic has been launched by the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp).

Boots pharmacists who are shielding or self-isolating due to COVID-19 are providing pharmacy advice to patients through the NHS 111 triage service, the multiple has said.

The four largest multiples have told C+D they have redeployed clinically trained and support staff who usually work in other parts of the company to help frontline pharmacy teams.

April 20: Boots is trialling an online pharmacy video consultation service to support patients who are self-isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 19: Leicestershire Police volunteers have delivered more than 700 prescriptions to people who are self-isolating since March 27. The volunteers are part of Leicestershire and Rutland 4x4 Response, a charity mainly focused on transporting personnel or supplies in times of severe weather conditions.

April 17: Community pharmacy professionals in England who are self-isolating with symptoms of COVID-19 can now get swab tested thanks to increased testing capacity, the DH has said.

The Welsh government has announced that pharmacy teams in Wales will have access to the Health for Health Professionals Wales service – which offers mental health support but was previously for doctors only – during COVID-19. The free service helps healthcare professionals with conditions including anxiety, depression and PTSD.

While the GPhC and RPS will not deem pharmacies responsible for the actions of NHS volunteers delivering medicines, the law may hold them accountable, legal experts have warned.

April 15: Pharmacy professionals who use NHS COVID-19 volunteers “in good faith” will not be “regarded as responsible” for the helpers' actions, the GPhC and RPS have said.

Boots has temporarily closed 60 pharmacies seeing reduced footfall amid the COVID-19 outbreak, as the locations patients visit has “changed fundamentally in the last few weeks”.

A volunteer-led medicines delivery service has been launched in Northern Ireland to assist pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the DH has said.

April 14: Undergraduate pharmacy students wishing to work for a pharmacy during the pandemic should start their roles after completing their final assessments, industry bodies have said.

Patients can use ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, an MHRA advisory body and Nice have said.

April 13: Pharmacy teams in England and Wales should “have reassurance” that they are covered by protective laws against violent attacks, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

April 12: Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price has warned that pharmacies are “at breaking point” and that the pressure on them is “immense” in a blog for a national newspaper.

April 10: English pharmacies are now contractually required to help “shielded” patients receive their prescriptions during the pandemic, with extra funding secured, the PSNC has announced.

April 8: Pharmacy teams in England will be able to access a free mental health hotline during the pandemic, NHS England has announced.

English contractors will be able to claim £1,500 for the three hours they are required to open on both Good Friday and Easter Monday, NHS England has said.

April 7: NHS England’s use of volunteers to deliver medicines to patients could be exploited by “fraudsters”, the PSNC has warned.

Pharmacies in Scotland will receive “an initial package” of £5.5m to help them cover the costs of COVID-19, health secretary Jeane Freeman has announced.

NHS England has clarified that, while it requires pharmacies to open for three fixed hours on Good Friday and Easter Monday, pharmacies should seek an exemption from their regional NHS England team if they think there is no need to open on those days, for example, if there is “minimal demand”.

April 3: Pharmacies will be required to treat Good Friday and Easter Monday as normal working days and therefore be open on those days, the PSNC said in a statement today. NHS England & NHS Improvement requires all "community pharmacies to be open for a few hours" on those days as part of the NHS response to the pandemic.

Locums should not try to profit from the COVID-19 outbreak by colluding to “inflate their hourly rate”, the GPhC chief executive has told C+D.

Pharmacy minister Jo Churchill has written an open letter to the sector commending its “outstanding response to patients” during COVID-19.

April 2: The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has received clarification that the funding to cover the cost of installing physical barriers, “such as screens and retractable tape barriers”, will not be taken from the global sum. NHS England announced on March 31 that all pharmacies apart from distance-selling ones will receive £300 to install barriers to enforce social distancing.

Pharmacy teams should wear fluid-resistant surgical masks if social distancing cannot be maintained, according to new guidance applicable across the UK.

April 1: Emergency measures have been proposed to give pharmacists the power to supply certain controlled drugs to patients without a prescription during the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 31: Community pharmacies in England will receive £300 million in “advance funding” over the next two months to alleviate cash flow issues caused by COVID-19, the PSNC has announced

The NPA, RPS, AIMp and CCA have welcomed the government’s £300 million funding advancement but said it isn’t enough to keep pharmacies afloat during the pandemic

Community pharmacies in Scotland will receive an advance payment “three times the value of the net amount paid at the end of December 2019”, Community Pharmacy Scotland director of operations Matt Barclays has announced. He told C+D that while he could not share an exact figure, the value should “more than cover wholesale bills and staff costs, which will be considerable”.

The NHS Pharmacy First service – a new Scottish minor ailments service – will go live “later in the year” due to COVID-19. Community Pharmacy Scotland and the Scottish Government are working together to identify a new suitable launch date for the service, which was expected to go live on April 22.

March 30: Regulators and pharmacy bodies are calling on pharmacies to consider how social distancing can be achieved at their premises

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen electronic prescription service nominations increase “significantly” for distance-selling pharmacies Pharmacy2U and Echo.

It would be an “absurdity” and “abuse of the regulatory system” to report locums to the GPhC for negotiating higher hourly rates, the PDA has said.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has thanked “wonderful pharmacists” for their work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 29: Pharmacy teams in England will be tested for COVID-19 for free if they are showing symptoms, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has announced.

March 27: Pharmacies and pharmacy bodies have highlighted an increase in abusive and aggressive behaviour by patients since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 27: Community pharmacies in Wales will receive £50 million as an “advance payment”, the Welsh government has announced. The payment “will be recovered over a ten-month period in equal instalments starting June 1”, the government added.

March 26: The GPhC and the PSNI have decided to postpone all of this year’s registration assessments following the outbreak of COVID-19.

The government must “ensure” pharmacies receive personal protective equipment to protect against COVID-19, the PDA said in a letter to Matt Hancock.

Pharmacies need to prepare to close unexpectedly, "assess the risks of" remote supervision and operate flexible working hours, according to COVID-19 guidelines by pharmacy bodies.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a direct cash grant for self-employed individuals who have lost their income due to COVID-19. The self-employed income support scheme will offer workers 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years” – up to £2,500 a month for at least three months.

March 25: Wholesaler AAH has decided to move to a “predominantly once a day delivery service” to protect healthcare staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has announced.

As the COVID-19 outbreak gets worse, pre-registration pharmacists and pharmacy technicians may be required “to help with service provision”, HEE has said.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has asked supermarkets to make sure pharmacy staff can access priority shopping slots for NHS workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alliance Healthcare is set to deliver personal protective equipment to Scottish pharmacies on behalf of the Scottish government. Pharmacies will receive the equipment next Monday, Community Pharmacy Scotland director of operations Matt Barclay said in an update to contractors.

March 24: A community pharmacist has created a list of ideas to help pharmacies cope with COVID-19, with the document widely shared on social media by colleagues in the UK and overseas.

A national community pharmacy medicines delivery service for England is due to start “in the next few days”, the PSNC has said.

A £10.5m relief package to help community pharmacies deal with the pressure of the COVID-19 outbreak in Northern Ireland has been announced.

March 23: Pharmacies in England that are “under significant pressure” due to the COVID-19 pandemic can close to the public for up to 2.5 hours a day, including lunch, NHS England has said.

March 20: Pharmacists voiced their disappointment on social media that a list of “key workers” published by the Department for Education failed to mention the profession directly.

March 19: The government is “seeking to commission” community pharmacies to supply medicines without a prescription and deliver medicines to vulnerable patients, the PSNC announced today.

Pharmacies left without a responsible pharmacist or locum cover will be able to stay open to supply dispensed medicines during the COVID-19 outbreak, pharmacy regulators have said.

Business rate “holidays” have been extended to all retailers to support companies dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.

March 18: NHS England has pledged to protect pharmacies’ income as the UK prepares for the “peak” of the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 17: NPA and CCA have asked patients to “act responsibly” and not stockpile medicines, while AIMp has called for “emergency” funding.

The GPhC has announced it is stopping all routine inspections from today.

March 16: PHE has advised against the use of COVID-19 tests in community pharmacies and at home.

Financial pressures caused by COVID-19 may cause pharmacies to close permanently unless the government provides a funding boost, PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes has said.

March 13: The government has announced its spending plans for the year ahead, with a focus on small businesses and statutory sick pay for those affected by COVID-19.

The GPhC could grant temporary registration to 5,800 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians no longer on its register if an emergency is declared during the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 9: The national antimicrobial stewardship clinical audit for 2019/2020 has been waived to allow pharmacies to focus on implementing COVID-19 prevention tactics.

March 6: The GPhC has said it will take COVID-19 into account if it receives concerns related to professionals on its register where the virus is a factor.

March 2: NHS England has released COVID-19 guidance for community pharmacy, including advice on isolating patients.

Supply issues

April 14: Pharmacies can contact the national supply disruption response line if they have not received their PPE packs or “or if the pack delivered is incomplete”, pharmacy minister Jo Churchill said in a written answer to a parliamentary question. “Should community pharmacies require further PPE supplies, they can order this through their wholesalers”, she added.

April 2: Pharmacists in England are reporting difficulties sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) through the national supply disruption response (NSDR) line.

March 24: RPS president Sandra Gidley has appeared on the BBC, urging patients not to panic-buy medicines. The BBC news segment highlighted the increased pressure and workload community pharmacies face due to COVID-19.

March 20: Wholesaler body the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) issued a “plea to pharmacies” to return tote boxes quickly amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 20: Pharmacies have reported difficulty in getting hold of paracetamol in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, although the DH has said there is no shortage of the drug.

March 19: Pharmacies can split “larger packs of paracetamol” and sell smaller quantities to the public, the GPhC has said as pharmacies report struggling to source the OTC analgesic.

March 10: PHE is “working with wholesalers” to replenish stocks in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge has said.

March 6: The CMA has called on retailers to “behave responsibly” and not increase prices during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Boots and Lloyds have confirmed they are limiting customers to two bottles of hand sanitiser each as bulk buying of the product increases with the spread of the COVID-19.

February 21: An online pharmacy has seen sales of hand sanitisers increase over 1,000% in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

February 11: Businesses have been told to “retain existing stockpiles” of medicines as a precautionary measure as the DH evaluates the COVID-19 impact.

January 31: UK pharmacies are selling out of face masks and struggling to get them from wholesalers, as the Wuhan novel COVID-19 outbreak drives up demand.

Clinical advice

Nice rapid guideline summary: pneumonia

Read our summary of the Nice rapid guidelines for managing pneumonia in adults

Boosting immunity

Advice for patients on improving their immune system in the face of the pandemic

COVID-19 and antihypertensives

Managing patients taking medicines for high blood pressure

Paying pharmacy staff

With staff numbers depleted and the ability to run services drastically reduced, juggling salary costs is a pressing challenge for many contractors

Supervised consumption

How should you maintain social distancing practices for patients requiring supervised consumption?

Pharmacy students

What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean for pharmacy students and pre-registration pharmacists?

Mental health

Pharmacy teams are under strain during the COVID-19 crisis, so how can they look after their mental health during this time?

Vulnerable patients: pregnancy

What is the latest guidance for those who are pregnant that may be in contact with COVID-19 patients?

Symptoms of COVID-19

What is the difference in symptoms between cold or the flu and COVID-19?

Handwashing

How and when should you use hand sanitiser and wash your hands to protect yourself against and prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Treating patients with COVID-19

What can you tell concerned patients about preventing the transmission of COVID-19?

Team support

How pharmacy teams can best support patients during the COVID-19 crisis

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a large family of viruses that can be transmitted between animals and people.

COVID-19 features

Although this is a pressurised period for pre-registration pharmacists, the postponement of the assessment is an opportunity for personal development

One pharmacy in Manchester has been dispensing sertraline at a “massive loss” since the outbreak of COVID-19

Pharmacies across England are questioning their future after seeing a surge of demand from panicked patients following the COVID-19 outbreak

A minority of locum pharmacists have increased their hourly rates following the COVID-19 outbreak, sparking controversy across the sector

Pharmacy teams reveal escalating levels of abuse from patients during the COVID-19 outbreak

Public Health England (PHE) does not recommend the public wear protective face masks, but pharmacy teams can share their effective use with those who ignore that advice

COVID-19 opinion

Contractors have a legal obligation to take steps to ensure the health and safety of employees as best they can during the COVID-19 outbreak, says solicitor Rachel Warren

Community pharmacies could face legal claims arising from the actions of altruistic NHS Volunteer Responders delivering their medicines, says lawyer Andrea James

Checking patient prescription exemption claims is an unnecessary burden on pharmacy teams in England during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Mike Hewitson

Deferring the June and September pharmacy pre-registration exams was the only viable option for candidates during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Khalid Khan

Having NHS volunteers deliver medicines is not straightforward, so legal expert David Reissner suggests a statement for them to sign to ensure things run as smoothly as possible

In a letter to health minister Matt Hancock, C+D editor Beth Kennedy makes the case for England’s prescription charge to be put on hold during the COVID-19 crisis

NHS England’s plan for well-meaning volunteers to deliver medicines for pharmacies puts patients’ lives at risk, says Mike Hewitson

Having NHS volunteers deliver medicines is not straightforward, so legal expert David Reissner suggests a statement for them to sign to ensure things run as smoothly as possible

The government must take action to ensure community pharmacies survive the COVID-19 pandemic, says contractor Stuart Gale

Pharmacists are war-weary from handling the impact of COVID-19 but their efforts may finally earn them recognition, says Laura Buckley

Pharmacies profiteering from the COVID-19 outbreak could face serious sanctions for unfair pricing, says solicitor Susan Hunneyball

Preparing a list of key phone numbers and limiting the sale of products like paracetamol are some of the ways pharmacy teams can combat the pressure of COVID-19, says contractor Reena Barai

COVID-19 means the government must reconsider pharmacy funding to help independent businesses tackle the crisis, NPA board member Olivier Picard says

Despite the insult of being called a “distributer of medicine”, C+D clinical editor Naimah Callachand says she will overcome her concerns to return to work in a pharmacy

Community pharmacists have stepped up to the front line in the war against COVID-19, C+D editor Beth Kennedy says

COVID-19 podcasts

What issues does the COVID-19 crisis pose for those who misuse drugs? C+D spoke to MPharm programme director Dr Amira Guirguis

There will be a second wave of unprecedented demand on community pharmacies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Avicenna chair Salim Jetha

”We need to safeguard ourselves as well as the general public”, says Dr Mahendra Patel about his experience working in a community pharmacy during the COVID-19 outbreak

How can pharmacy teams look after their mental health at home during the COVID-19 outbreak

Read more about COVID-19 on C+D’s hub.

1 Comments
Question: 
How is covid-19 affecting your pharmacy team?

Sandhya Haria, Community pharmacist

I'm shocked that some pharmacies have not introduced social distancing measures within their premises! Crowds of vunerable patients waiting for their meds! It's crazy.
As a healthcare provider, we should be having controls within the pharmacy.

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