COVID-19 Update: Protection of staff and managing supply

COVID-19 Update: Protection of staff and managing supply

April 1, 2020

The latest COVID-19 preparedness letter for community pharmacy from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) provides further guidance and information on support for pharmacy teams.

The letter can be read in full here but we have summarised the key points below.

Protection of staff

Social distancing alongside installation of bollards, physical barriers or screens is considered to be the most effective way of protecting staff. To support the installation of such barriers, NHSE&I will make a £300 payment to all pharmacies, except distance-selling pharmacies. PSNC had been pressing NHSE&I to recognise the costs of installing protective barriers for pharmacy staff. Some contractors are reporting high prices for protective screens but many have been able to source these at reasonable prices and sometimes on a cost-only basis from suppliers looking to support the NHS through the pandemic.

Pharmacy teams are requested to follow Public Health England (PHE) guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Further stock of PPE is being made available to wholesalers for pharmacies to order. Note, PSNC is still pressing NHSE&I to ensure that pharmacy teams have access to whatever PPE they need (see today’s negotiations update).

If pharmacists or pharmacy technicians need to visit a patient at their home (e.g. care homes or care at home), measures should be put into place to reduce risk to the resident, the care home staff, and themselves. As vulnerable patients, pharmacy teams are asked to do all they can to shield care home residents from the virus, working with the care home and its staff to establish systems to minimise the number of visits and only visit if it is necessary. Pharmacies could consider bulk prescribing in care homes for medicines like paracetamol. Further guidance for residential care, supported living and home care is available here.

Any contractors who have temporarily closed their pharmacy for more than two weeks since 31st March 2020 but made adjustments for social distancing prior to or shortly after the closure, will need to claim the £300 payment by 5th August 2020 using the appropriate NHSBSA claim form.

Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS)

Referral into CPCS via NHS 111 online is now live in all areas of England, with patients being advised to telephone rather than visit the pharmacy. However, any pharmacies that attempt to newly register for the service at this time will not be made live for the service because the work involved in the testing of new registrations has been de-prioritised.

Managing supply and NHS IT

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) continues to work closely with those across the supply chain to maintain the flow of medicines and reduce the likelihood of future shortages. Wholesalers are consolidating some of their deliveries and the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) is asking that community pharmacy teams support the supply chain by ensuring delivery tote boxes are returned to suppliers of medicinal products as quickly as possible.

The message to everyone to not over-order or attempt to stockpile prescription medicines continues and pharmacy teams are reminded of the need to restrict quantities of hand sanitisers, soaps and over the counter medicines, as well as now being asked to now do the same for formula milk.

Primary care is being asked to increase the use of electronic Repeat Dispensing (eRD) to better manage the situation with the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) helping GP practices to identify patients who may be appropriate for transfer to eRD. NHS Digital is also working to expand EPS to additional settings including GP hubs, paramedic prescribing and additional urgent care sites. Contractors are therefore encouraged to ensure that all staff requiring access to the national spine services, including EPS, the Patient Demographic Service (PDS) and the Summary Care Record (SCR), have active smartcards.

Capacity changes

NHSE&I will be using the Directory of Services (DoS) to monitor capacity changes within primary care. Contractors are therefore requested to continue to update their capacity status on their DoS profile. Please also remember to inform your local NHSE&I team of unavoidable closures and update the NHS website for patients and the public.

Treatment of COVID-19

Clinical trials are ongoing and being developed to assess the benefits of a number of different medicines in treating COVID-19. Suppliers of medicines being tested have been asked to monitor requests and restrict orders in line with historic ordering requirements.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have issued a press release highlighting that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are not licensed to treat COVID-19 related symptoms or prevent infection. Pharmacists and GPs are asked to restrict prescriptions and supply to only those with current clinical need for licensed indications or as part of a clinical trial.

Reminders

The letter also contains reminders of the community pharmacy SOP that was revised on 22nd March and the fact that community pharmacists and support staff, including delivery drivers, have been classified as key workers to access educational provision for their children.



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