PSNC presses for new approach to script switching during COVID-19 pandemic

PSNC presses for new approach to script switching during COVID-19 pandemic

May 22, 2020

PSNC has raised concerns about the appropriateness of prescription switching during the COVID-19 pandemic with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Community pharmacy contractors have started to receive their FP34 Schedule of Payments relating to the dispensing of March 2020 – the month that the COVID-19 outbreak hit the UK – and many have noticed a larger than usual number of switches listed.

During the pricing of prescriptions, if the Pricing Authority does not agree with the charge group (i.e. paid or exempt) in which a prescription has been submitted, the prescription will be ‘switched’. If a declaration of exemption is required on the reverse of the form, but it has not been signed, the form is ‘switched’ to chargeable and a prescription charge is deducted from a contractor’s payment for each item on that form.

During the pandemic, many pharmacy teams have understandably been concerned about infection control, as per guidance issued by Public Health England (PHE) on the handling of paper prescriptions which states:

‘It is theoretically possible that a person can transmit and/or contract Covid-19 by touching a surface and/or object, (i.e. medication boxes and/or prescription tokens) that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.’

This, coupled with massively increased workloads, has not been a conducive environment for collecting patient exemption declarations.

PSNC is pressing the DHSC and the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) to take a more pragmatic approach and review their processes around the switching of paper prescriptions with incomplete patient declarations. We have requested that such prescriptions are referred back to contractors or refunded.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak PSNC had proposed that all potential candidates for switching be referred back to the pharmacy for correction, however, this proposal was not accepted at the time.

Similarly, PSNC raised the collection of prescription charges during the COVID-19 pandemic as an unnecessary administrative burden and potential infection risk (through the handling of money) in discussions with HM Government. We have also, with the British Medical Association (BMA) and Dispensing Doctors Association (DDA), written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to highlight this issue.

We will continue to press on both of these matters on behalf of community pharmacy contractors.



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