These are uncertain times. The UK’s COVID-19 situation is unprecedented and ever-changing, with the number of cases who have tested positive totalling more than 120,000 as of yesterday, according to government figures.
As part of the fight against COVID-19, the government has given “key worker” status to doctors, nurses, midwives and social care workers. These professions are deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19, and the children of those in these roles have access to childcare and education at their local schools.
In the original guidance however, one profession was notably absent. Pharmacists were not listed as “key workers” but instead, the phrase “distributors of medicine” had been coined – presumably referring to them. This label is damaging to the highly skilled pharmacy teams, who deserve greater recognition in the nation’s time of need. We need pharmacists now more than ever.
The role of pharmacy teams is much greater than this phrase implies, as their professional scope extends throughout the medical spectrum within primary, secondary and tertiary care. The profession is playing a fundamental role in ensuring that medicines continue to be dispensed safely during the pandemic.
With restricted travel throughout the UK, there are understandably discernible fears over limited medical supplies. It is pharmacy teams who bear the greatest responsibility for handling shortages and strategising solutions around issues such as stockpiling vital medicines.
They also play a fundamental role within the community, as they’re often the first point of contact for the public. Pharmacy teams provide clarification and reassurance to anxious or worried patients.
On the front line, the roles of pharmacists and pharmacy staff are crucial, as they are involved in the care of sickest, most vulnerable patients who often have multiple co-morbidities and are taking numerous medications.
Working in A&E, hospital pharmacists’ knowledge is invaluable in assisting clinicians in drug calculations and renal dosage adjustments. They also ensure that local and national clinical guidelines are adhered to, unless it’s necessary to deviate from the norm.
In intensive care, the role of pharmacists is key when reviewing drugs bespoke to critical care and their interactions, alongside reconciling patient medication.
Clinical guidance for managing patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 is changing, sometimes more than once, daily. Pharmacists play a significant role in keeping up with the ever-changing medicines law and pharmaceutical standards.
Over the coming weeks and months, community pharmacists will be deeply involved in patient care. They may see patients with suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, putting themselves at great risk akin to other frontline medical staff. It is imperative that we recognise the importance of the profession and its role during this global pandemic.
Hospital staff admire the weekly Clap for our Carers applause in recognition of the valued contribution that NHS workers are making to fight the pandemic. This applause extends graciously to pharmacists working in the evolving pandemic, as the profession continues to be the last bastion of safe medical distribution to patients.
The medical profession will continue to stand by our valued pharmacist colleagues during this watershed moment, as they are recognised as a vital cog within the structural machine.
Logal McCallan is an A&E doctor at a hospital in London