Pandemic Delivery Service

Published on: 23rd March 2020 | Updated on: 8th April 2022

The Pandemic Delivery Service (Advanced service) finished on 5th March 2022 and the whole service was decommissioned on 31st March 2022.

Please click on the headings below to access the archive information on the service.

Page last updated on 7th April 2022.


Background to the service

This page provided information and resources for pharmacy contractors and their teams on contractual responsibilities that were introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic related to supporting certain groups of people to obtain their medicines via a delivery service.

There were service requirements within the Terms of Service which applied to all pharmacy contractors (excluding distance selling pharmacies) and an optional Advanced service which contractors could choose to provide.

Initially, the service requirements applied to clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) patients self-isolating at home (also referred to as shielded patients), but that cohort of patients ceased to be covered by the service.

From 16th March 2021, people who had been notified of the need to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace were able to access support for the delivery of their prescriptions from contractors.

This page also contains general guidance that was available to contractors regarding the delivery of all prescriptions during the pandemic and on the use of volunteers.

Introduction

Most community pharmacies already offer a prescription delivery service to some or all patients, either as a free of charge or paid for service.

At the time of launching the pandemic delivery service (early April 2020), Government restrictions meant most people had to stay at home, as part of the efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, but people could leave their homes for healthcare reasons, such as visiting a pharmacy.

The service was originally commissioned across England to support clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) patients until 31st July 2020, with some specified local outbreak areas continuing to be covered by the service until 5th October 2020.

During the second national lockdown across England, new advice was issued to people who were clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 and the service was restarted on 5th November 2020. It ran until 3rd December 2020. The service for CEV patients continued in announced Tier 4 areas before then recommencing across the whole of England following commencement of a new national lockdown in England from 5th January 2021. Provision of the service to CEV patients ended at 23:59 on 31st March 2021, when shielding for that group of patients was paused.

From 16th March 2021 to 23:59 on 5th March 2022, people who had been notified of the need to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace were able to access support for the delivery of their prescriptions from contractors.

Read the NHSE&I letters activating the service and the guidance and Advanced Service specification

Patients eligible for prescription deliveries

From 16th March 2021, people who were notified of the need to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace were able to seek support from community pharmacies under the Pandemic Delivery Service. This was part of a package of measures which the Government put in place to support people to self-isolate effectively and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

This meant all pharmacies (excluding distance selling pharmacies) were required to ensure those people who had been notified by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate could receive their prescription medicines and appliances by home delivery during the ten-day self-isolation period, if they were unable to arrange for medicines to be picked up.

This service was only available to people during their ten-day* self-isolation period and to those who could provide their NHS Test and Trace Account ID when requesting the service (people are provided a unique NHS Test and Trace Account ID, which is an 8-character mix of letters and numbers, when they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, sometimes referred to as a CTAS number).

A record of the NHS Test and Trace Account ID reference number must be made and retained as part of the contractor’s delivery record.

* Should COVID-19 symptoms have developed within the initial 10-day isolation period after receiving an initial positive test (where no symptoms were being exhibited), or as a contact, and the advice given was to continue to isolate for a short period beyond the initial 10 days, self-isolating people would still be provided the medicines delivery service against their initial reference number.

The maximum amount of time someone could be self-isolating was 20 days, i.e. in the unlikely event they develop symptoms on the 10th day of their self-isolation period. This was based on guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection.

Each time someone entered the NHS Test and Trace system, they would receive a new unique contact tracing reference number. Therefore, if someone had been identified as a contact, they would receive one through their first contact with Test and Trace, and then if they went on to test positive, they would receive another one.

As part of the removal of COVID-19 restrictions, from 24th February 2022, NHS Test and Trace no longer issued any 8-digit NHS Test and Trace Account IDs (sometimes referred to as a CTAS number).

Pharmacy contractors could still make prescription deliveries to eligible patients who had a CTAS number issued on or before 23rd February 2022 if the CTAS number was valid (i.e. during the maximum 10-day window for self-isolation).

Medicine deliveries as part of the Pandemic Delivery Service ceased after 5th March 2022.

Read the NHSE&I announcement and additional guidance

What about deliveries to other patients?

Other patients, including those who were advised to shield, could request home deliveries, but they were not covered by the NHS-funded service and except for deliveries of Specified Appliances, contractors continued to be able to charge patients for the delivery of prescriptions if they wish.

What did the delivery service entail?

The Terms of Service for all pharmacy contractors, bar distance selling pharmacies (DSP), were amended to require contractors to help eligible patients to receive their prescriptions. Additionally, an Advanced service for delivery of prescriptions to eligible patients, which contractors could provide if they wish to, was commissioned by NHSE&I.

The combined Terms of Service requirements and the Advanced service only applied to the eligible group of patients during the pandemic. The service was not used for any other patients.

The Terms of Service requirements which pharmacies had to comply with

Patients eligible for prescription delivery were encouraged, in the first instance, to see if their medicines could be collected from the pharmacy and then delivered by family, friends or a carer.

If the patient could not identify a family member, friend or carer to collect their prescription from the pharmacy, they were advised to contact the pharmacy. The pharmacy had to then:

  1. provide advice to the patient on how to identify a local volunteer to collect the prescription from the pharmacy on their behalf and then deliver it. This could have been locally organised volunteer arrangements (e.g. organised by a local council) or volunteers from the NHS Volunteer Responders programme (see further details below); or
  2. where no volunteer was available, deliver the medicine as part of the Advanced service; or
  3. where no volunteer was available, arrange for another pharmacy to deliver it on their behalf. The other pharmacy was able to claim payment for the delivery under the Advanced service; or
  4. where no volunteer was available, arrange for the prescription to be dispensed and delivered by another pharmacy (by referring the patient to another pharmacy, including a distance selling pharmacy).

Read the NHSE&I guidance on the Terms of Service requirement

Funding for the Terms of Service requirements

Pharmacies (excluding Distance Selling Pharmacies, who are already contractually obliged to deliver dispensed items to their patients) were paid an allowance to recognise the work involved in supporting the group of eligible patients with their deliveries. This payment was made automatically by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA).

The payment was from additional funding which was made available to respond to the pandemic, i.e. it was not part of the community pharmacy global sum.

The payment was aligned to the banding used for the Transition Payment.

Prescription items within the month Daily payment – Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) patients only (1st-15th March 2021) Daily payment – Self-isolating and CEV patients (16th-31st March 2021) Daily payment – Self-isolating patients only (from 1st April 2021 – 31st March 2022)
0-100 £0.00 £0.00 £0.00
101-2500 £2.07 £2.24 £0.17
2501-5000 £24.24 £26.26 £2.02
5001-12500 £30.62 £33.17 £2.55
12501-19167 £33.19 £35.96 £2.77
19168+ £34.47 £37.34 £2.87

Payments were on the same line as the Transitional Payment and were shown as a total figure on the FP34 Schedule of Payments.

Payment for the Essential service element of the Pandemic Delivery Service continued until 31st March 2022.

The Home Delivery during a Pandemic – Advanced Service

Where a contractor was able to make deliveries to eligible patients, the Advanced service provided funding for each delivery of a prescription that a contractor made under options b or c above.

Contractors could also outsource the deliveries via a secure delivery method, e.g. using a courier company, if they wished.

As Distance Selling Pharmacies are already contractually obliged to deliver dispensed items to their patients, this Advanced service was not open to them to provide.

The service specification set out the requirements the contractor had to comply with, including keeping records of the eligible patients to whom a delivery was made under this service and the date of the delivery.

Contractors were able to claim, via the Manage Your Service (MYS) portal, a payment of £6 (including VAT) per delivery, as part of the normal end of month process.

When the NHSBSA made the payments for provision of the Advanced service, they were separately itemised on the FP34 Schedule of Payments, listed as ‘Additional advance payment’ under the section titled ‘Summary of Payment Amounts’.

This payment was from additional funding which was made available to respond to the pandemic, i.e. it was not part of the community pharmacy global sum.

Claims for the Advanced service (for deliveries) had to be submitted no later than 5th April 2022 to be remunerated for any deliveries made on or before 5th March 2022.

Volunteer support for deliveries (including NHS Volunteer Responders)

At the start of the pandemic, many contractors had offers of help with delivering prescriptions and undertaking other tasks during the pandemic. Some of these offers of help came from individuals, but many were organised by local voluntary groups, parish councils and district councils.

Additionally, HM Government and the NHS worked with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) to recruit NHS Volunteer Responders via the GoodSam app to help with:

  • delivering medicines from pharmacies;
  • driving patients to appointments;
  • bringing them home from hospital; and
  • making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.

GPs, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, NHS 111 advisers and social care staff could all request help for their at-risk patients via a website or call centre run by the RVS, who matched people who needed help with volunteers who live near to them, using the GoodSam app.

If they wished, contractors were also able to request help from NHS Volunteer Responders to deliver all prescriptions, not just those for shielded patients. Contractors were able to request this on a one-off basis, e.g. to assist with deliveries on a Wednesday afternoon, or on an ongoing basis, e.g. each morning, Monday to Friday.

Find out more about how to refer a patient for support from NHS Volunteer Responders (RVS website)

NHS Volunteer Responders – information for health professionals (NHSE&I)

Helping patients eligible for prescription deliveries to find a volunteer

Where an eligible patient asked for advice on finding a volunteer to deliver their prescription, pharmacy teams were required to assist them under the new Terms of Service requirement.

Pharmacy teams were able to refer the clinically extremely vulnerable patient to local volunteer schemes, many of which were organised by or with the help of local councils and voluntary organisations. Local Pharmaceutical Committees were also able to provide contractors with contact details for such local schemes.

Eligible patients were also able to seek help from NHS Volunteer Responders with collecting shopping, prescriptions or other essential supplies or accessing a ‘check in and chat’ to help prevent loneliness. Patients are able to call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm) to seek volunteer assistance.

RVS poster to highlight how people can seek volunteer assistance

Pharmacy teams were also able to request support for clinically extremely vulnerable patient and other isolated, vulnerable people.

Find out more about how to refer a patient for support from NHS Volunteer Responders (RVS website)

Requests for support from the NHS Volunteer Responders could be submitted  via:

Important considerations when volunteers were used to undertake work on your behalf

When an employed delivery driver delivers prescriptions for a pharmacy, the contractor holds responsibility for these employees, and they are appropriately trained and are covered by professional indemnity insurance as part of their work for the pharmacy.

When carers, friends, relatives and neighbours collect prescriptions and purchase OTC medicines from a pharmacy on behalf of patients, they have been selected by the patient to act on their behalf and will be individuals they trust and those with whom they have a family, professional or neighbourly relationship.

The new group of volunteers that supported delivery of prescriptions to patients during the pandemic are different to the above groups. The individuals concerned are not chosen by the patient or member of the public; it is the volunteer service that is chosen, not the person who will deliver the medicine.

While it remained for a patient to make their own decisions and choose their own volunteer, isolated people in some circumstances, had little choice but to use such volunteers and trust that the Government and community pharmacy had made the necessary checks for them.

The majority of people volunteering will be reasonable, trustworthy, safe and public-spirited individuals who wish to assist others in their community at this time of need. It was not with the majority that the concerns lie; it was with the minority of individuals who may seek to exploit those who were isolated and dependent on others for help, or simply be careless as to their safety or their personal information.

Consequently, PSNC advised that, where the pharmacy was directly involved in the selection or request process for a volunteer, for example, booking a delivery driver for an afternoon or requesting an NHS Volunteer Responder via the GoodSam app to deliver a prescription to a shielded patient, there is an obligation to ensure that the individual is appropriate for the role, in skills and competence, and that other checks have been made, such as the individual having had a recent Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

In relation to the Terms of Service requirement to ensure eligible patients can have their prescriptions delivered, NHSE&I agreed to PSNC’s recommendation that the pharmacist has the right to reject a volunteer if they believe they were not an appropriate person to deliver medicines to the patient. This meant that if, following the advice above that checks should be made on volunteers selected or requested by the contractor, they decided that the volunteer was not an appropriate person to deliver medicines to a patient, the pharmacist has the right to reject the volunteer. In this circumstance, the contractor could then seek another appropriate volunteer to deliver the prescription to the patient or they could determine that it was necessary for the delivery to be undertaken directly by the pharmacy, utilising the Advanced service.

Other matters, such as indemnity insurance need to be considered by contractors in relation to the use of volunteers and further guidance from other bodies should be read and acted upon before selecting and using volunteers to deliver prescriptions on behalf of a pharmacy.

Further guidance is available from:

National Pharmacy Association

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Information for volunteers using their car to help fight coronavirus

Volunteers and Controlled Drugs

Where a contractor decides to use volunteers to deliver prescriptions on their behalf, they should not deliver Schedule 2 and 3 Controlled Drugs and pharmacists should use their professional judgement to determine whether it is appropriate for a volunteer to deliver Schedule 4 or 5 Controlled Drugs.

Practical advice on making deliveries to all patients during the pandemic

Pharmacy staff or volunteers delivering prescriptions during the pandemic needed to take precautions to protect themselves and patients from the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

That could have included placing a prescription on the doorstep and then stepping back two metres from the front door, after knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell. Alternatively, once the prescription had been placed on the doorstep, the delivery driver could phone the patient. That should allow confirmation of the safe delivery of the prescription to the correct household, from a safe distance.

Patients who needed to pay an NHS prescription charge and could do so by credit or debit card were encouraged to pay over the phone before a delivery was scheduled, where the contractor had the facility to take such remote payments.

Patients who were not able to pay by credit or debit card could pay by cash at the point of delivery. To protect the eligible patients and the delivery driver, it was advised that cash should not be handed directly from the patient or representative to the person delivering medicines or vice versa, i.e. money should be placed on the doorstep, with the patient or representative then stepping back two metres to allow the delivery driver to safely approach to collect the cash. After leaving the patient’s home, the delivery driver should sanitise their hands and any money given, where possible.

Further guidance on making deliveries was available from the:

National Pharmacy Association

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Key points for volunteers delivering medicines on a pharmacy’s behalf

In addition to the separate points above on delivering prescriptions during a pandemic, the following points were drafted by a small group of contractors, PSNC and NHSE&I as guidance for NHS Volunteer Responders delivering prescriptions on behalf of pharmacies:

Delivering medicines to people is a vital role in current times to patients in self-isolation or may already be house-bound due to other existing medical issues; it is vitally important that the correct medicine is delivered to the correct patient.

To avoid the potential for confusion, you must also complete all deliveries from a single pharmacy before picking up further prescriptions for delivery from another pharmacy.

Below are some considerations for you when delivering medicines to patients:

  • Make sure you have the contact details of the pharmacy you are delivering for. If at any time you are unsure of what to do with a medicines delivery, call the pharmacy team for assistance and guidance.
  • Medicine deliveries must be completed on the same day you collected them from the pharmacy, patients will be expecting these medicines and it is important they can continue to use their medicines each day.
  • Some medicines you are delivering may need to be stored in the fridge by the patient. You should deliver to these patients first. The pharmacy team will be able to tell you which medicines that are being delivered need to be stored in the fridge, please also communicate this to the patient.
  • Any medicines that cannot be delivered must be returned to the pharmacy that day; you must not store other peoples’ medicines overnight in your own home or fridge.
  • Do not open the bag of medicines to be handed over to the patient; full details of patient name and delivery address will be on the external labelling of the package.
  • If medicine packages split, or there’s a breakage, call the pharmacy team immediately for their advice.
  • When arriving at the patient’s house, follow the guidance in the Community Response Volunteer Handbook and additionally:
    • When the door is answered, explain that you have a prescription to deliver and ask the person to confirm the name and address of the patient, to ensure you have the correct address and that the patient lives there
    • The person answering the door must be asked to state the name and address of the person expecting a delivery of medicines – you must not state this to them.
    • If the person has to pay an NHS prescription charge, the pharmacy may have been able to take payment remotely by speaking to the patient on the phone. If that is not the case, the pharmacy may have agreed that the patient can give you payment to then take back to the pharmacy. In this case, the pharmacy staff will have told you the value of the NHS prescription charge which the patient needs to pay.
  • If a patient does not answer the door, please return the medicines back to the pharmacy; do not leave the medicines outside the house or post the medicines through the letter box.
  • Some patients may have more than one package of medicines, check with the pharmacy the number of packages for each patient on collection and ensure that all bags of medicines are delivered.
  • Sometimes the pharmacy may not have all the medicines needed or the full quantity ordered on the prescription. When this happens, the pharmacy will issue an Owings Slip. It is important that you pass this Owings Slip onto the patient and advise them that these items will be delivered when the pharmacy has the items back in stock.
  • Some patients’ medication packages may be accompanied by a message for the patient to contact the pharmacy for specific advice; please ensure this information is passed on to the patient.
  • If the patient has questions regarding the medicines themselves, please advise them to contact the pharmacy.
  • If the patient asks you to return unwanted medicines to the pharmacy for disposal, explain that you cannot do this and ask them to contact the pharmacy to discuss how to arrange disposal of the medicines.
  • Return to the pharmacy once you have completed the deliveries if you have to return any packages that could not be delivered or have money from patients to pay their NHS prescription charge. Otherwise, phone the pharmacy to confirm that all medicines have been delivered.

Several organisations developed freely available, short training programmes for volunteers who were to deliver prescriptions on behalf of pharmacies:

Buttercups Training

Mediapharm

National Pharmacy Association

Resources for pharmacy teams

Pandemic Delivery Service: Are you clear on how to deliver it?

Pandemic Delivery Service Overview (PDF)

Standard Operating Procedure (NPA – member login required)

A digital guide to the service:

End of the service:

PSNC developed a patient leaflet that was available to explain when the service was ending and why, as well as to advise clinically extremely vulnerable patients on what they should do going forwards. Some pharmacies may have chosen to continue to provide a delivery service, for example with a charge being paid by patients, so the leaflet was adaptable to describe your pharmacy’s particular circumstances.

A set of related media lines were also been uploaded to our LPC Members Area. Any contractors that wished to see a copy of these lines or needed assistance with media enquiries were advised to contact commsteam@psnc.org.uk

Closure of the service

As part of removing the last of the COVID-19 domestic restrictions, the Government’s policy document ‘Living with COVID-19’ confirmed that the Pandemic Delivery Service would end.

The legal duty to self-isolate when notified as a positive case or non-exempt close contact, ended on 24th February 2022, and the Government ceased all support measures from that date.

Contractors were able to make prescription deliveries to eligible patients on or before 23rd February 2022 if their CTAS number was valid, but no medicine deliveries were permited as part of the Pandemic Delivery Service after 5th March 2022.

Read the announcement

Archive

Information on the service related to its previous provision to shielded patients and during local outbreaks can be found in the Pandemic Delivery Service Archive.


Return to the COVID-19 index page

For more information on this topic please email services.team@psnc.org.uk

Latest National Pharmacy Services news

View more National Pharmacy Services newsSee all