COVID-19: This week’s updates for community pharmacies (1)

COVID-19: This week’s updates for community pharmacies (1)

February 22, 2021

Latest news, information and guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) for primary care teams.

1. NHSE&I Primary Care Bulletin updates – COVID-19: 16th February round-up for primary care

Over the weekend we sent local vaccination services a letter which provided clarification on the position on vaccinating children and young people on the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) list and confirmed the arrangements around vaccinating the next two cohorts (5 and 6). We are asking PCN sites to focus their efforts on inviting cohort 6, while cohort 5 (those aged 65-69) will be receiving an invitation from the national booking service to attend a vaccination centre or community pharmacy setting.

The letter also includes details on delivering vaccinations in residential settings, such as care homes for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems, or hostel/hotel accommodation for the homeless, where it would not be possible for these patients to attend vaccination sites. From 15 February onwards, a PCN grouping or community pharmacy contractor, will be able to claim an additional supplement of £10 for each vaccination administered to eligible residents and staff in these settings, on top of the £12.58 Item of Service fee.

Additional cohort of patients identified at increased risk from COVID-19
Today the Government announced a new predictive risk model to identify adults who may be at increased risk from Covid-19. The research, led by the University of Oxford following a commission from the Chief Medical Officer, combines a number of characteristics such as age, sex, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI) and clinical conditions to estimate the risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19.

Patients will be informed by letter sent centrally by the NHS and DHSC over the next few days. A letter has been sent to GPs which sets out the implication that this has for these patients, including how they should be prioritised for vaccination and noting that they will be added to the Shielded Patient List as a precaution. High risk flags are expected to appear against these patients on GP IT systems in the next few days, using the standard high risk coding.

Vaccinating non-NHS frontline healthcare workers 
The independent healthcare sector is included in the immediate requirement to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers. All healthcare professions seeing and treating patients are eligible, such as independent physiotherapists, podiatrists and midwives, and healthcare workers at larger organisations.

list of allied health professions and the recent letter to the system outlines the identification of eligible workers and responsibilities within local systems for enabling and supporting them to be vaccinated.

Nationally recruited clinical and volunteer roles
We have developed national workforce supply routes to compliment local recruitment. The access to this workforce supply is through the Lead Employer who can help you to draw down for the following roles:

  • Vaccinators, Clinical Supervisors and Registered Healthcare Professionals from the NHS Professional recruitment process. These candidates will require local onboarding, training and checks before being deployed to a site.
  • Volunteer vaccinators, patient advocates and post-vaccination observers supplied by St John Ambulance
  • Volunteer stewards supplied by NHS Volunteer Responders, led by Royal Voluntary Service
  • Clinical and GP Returners who have offered to support the NHS by vaccinating people

Extension to engagement phase for GP referral to Community Pharmacist Consultation Service implementation
Contractors engaging with PCNs and practices over embedding the GP referral pathway to Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) across a PCN, will now have until 30 June to undertake this work and collect evidence to claim their engagement fee and until 5 July 2021 to submit claims. This change will be included in the March Drug Tariff.

This extension from the original deadline of 31 March to complete the activity and 5 April 2021 for submitting claims, recognises the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine programme on the ability of some areas to make progress with implementation of the pathway since its introduction as a national service on 1 November 2020.

To help with engagement with practices and PCNs, a new animation published by the PSNC explains how the pathway works and how practices can refer into it and two blogs published by the RPS describe the benefits the service provides to patients from a practice and community pharmacist perspective.

For those ready to start with the service, the RPS in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners, are delivering free CPD sessions designed to upskill pharmacists in their clinical knowledge to enable them to help patients.

Easter bank holiday opening – Good Friday (2 April) and Easter Monday (5 April)
With the Easter bank holiday weekend fast approaching, we wanted to confirm there are currently no plans to ask all of primary care (general practice, community pharmacy, dentistry and optometry) to routinely open again. However, we continue to keep this position under review, subject to the changing demands of the pandemic.

Commissioners should continue to work with their providers to ensure sufficient cover arrangements are in place to meet expected demands for primary care services over the bank holiday weekend.

Local vaccination services remain the exception, where necessary providing a 7-day service, including bank holidays. Further communications on that will follow. We are extremely grateful to those who will be working over the Easter weekend but hope that everyone will be able to benefit from additional rest days.

NHS Discharge Medicines Service launched
The NHS Discharge Medicines Service (DMS) launched yesterday (Monday 15 February) and is available in all community pharmacies in England. The service has been established to ensure better communication of changes to a patient’s medication following discharge, with NHS trusts referring appropriate patients. Through community pharmacy checking and discussing medicines with patients, it will improve outcomes, prevent harm and reduce readmissions.

Resources for the DMS are on the NHS England website. This includes guidance, a cross-sector toolkit and training and assessment materials to support clinical teams across community pharmacies, PCNs and hospitals to deliver the service.

Pharmacy contractors must be ready to receive referrals and provide the service. PCN pharmacy teams should ensure that the DMS is included in 2021 medicines optimisation and safety plans.

Next phase of Help Us, Help You launches, with a focus on lung cancer  
Today marks the launch of the next phase of the Help Us, Help You campaign, urging people to come forward and seek advice if they are worried about possible symptoms. The focus of this stage is to raise awareness of the key symptom of lung cancer – a cough that lasts for three weeks or more. The campaign will encourage those most likely to get lung cancer and who have this symptom and not COVID-19 to contact their GP Practice, reminding the public that cancer remains a priority and that the NHS is here to see them safely. TV and radio adverts will go live from today, with media activity planned for Wednesday 17 February.


2. NHSE&I Primary Care Bulletin updates – COVID-19: 18th February round-up for primary care

Community pharmacies are playing an important role in the COVID vaccination effort, and we are keen to support more to be involved. We wrote to community pharmacy contractors and local pharmaceutical committees on Tuesday asking for expressions of interest for pharmacy led Local Vaccination Services. If you wish to apply to provide the COVID-19 vaccination local enhanced service (LES) then you should complete the designation form and submit this to your regional team via the online designation form by Sunday 28 February 2021 to formally express an interest in becoming a designated site. You should only do this if you are confident you can meet the requirements of the service as set out in the LES. Alongside the letter, we have published some frequently asked questions on the Community Pharmacy COVID-19 Vaccination Service.

We are delighted to be able to share the latest in our series of primary care network (PCN) podcasts with frontline clinicians discussing how care homes and local health services in their respective PCNs have come together to successfully deliver a challenging vaccination programme, while also providing enhanced healthcare for patients and greater support for staff.

Views sought on making oral contraceptive available from pharmacies
MHRA has launched a public consultation on the reclassification of two progestogen-only contraceptive pills containing desogestrel, asking whether they should be available over the counter without a medical prescription. The consultation closes on Friday 5 March.

GPhC revises guidance on COVID-19 antibody testing in community pharmacy
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is no longer asking community pharmacies not to provide rapid/point of case/near-person antibody tests for COVID-19, following a review of its position in light of recent updated guidance from Public Health England.

All pharmacies and professionals providing this service must carefully consider the PHE guidance and other relevant guidance if deciding whether it is appropriate to offer this type of test, or other type of COVID-19 test and carry out a full risk assessment, as well as checking whether they need to be accredited with the United Kingdom Accreditation Service.


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