Update on COVID-19 Pandemic Medicines Delivery Service

Update on COVID-19 Pandemic Medicines Delivery Service

April 7, 2020

Community pharmacy contractors may have seen news that from today the NHS Volunteer Responders are available to help the NHS in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) announcement includes a promise that these volunteers could be delivering medicines to shielded patients from today. 

PSNC is still in active negotiations with NHSE&I and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) about their planned national community pharmacy medicines delivery service and in particular about how pharmacies will have to make use of the volunteer network to support this. 

The discussions have taken far longer than we had hoped, in part because of the complexity that involving a volunteer network has brought.  

PSNC has been concerned that patient and medicines safety must protected, and we have asked that pharmacies should only be required to use DBS-checked volunteers to deliver medicines. We are continuing to work through the negotiations to ensure that pharmacies do not face undue workload or liabilities as a result of this new service and the involvement of the volunteer network. 

For now, it remains the case that there is no NHS-funded medicines delivery service in place (for any group of patients, other than for specified appliances).  

Contractors wishing to use volunteers for other roles should refer to the NHSE&I guidance on this matter. 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has also issued guidance on this topic, including the need for DBS checks for people delivering medicines to patients’ homes. 

PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes said: 

“The Pandemic Delivery Service is still under negotiation with NHSE&I. This is an incredibly frustrating process that has taken far longer than we wanted it to – the lack of clarity is extremely unhelpful for contractors who we know are facing increasing demands for deliveries from patients. 

However, as we have raised in the national media today, PSNC does have some considerable concerns about the potential risks of using volunteers to deliver medicines to vulnerable people. We are continuing to work hard to find a way forward that allows pharmacies to work collaboratively with these volunteers, the vast majority of whom are selflessly offering their own time to support the NHS through this crisis, for the benefit of the NHS and patients.”

PSNC highlights concerns about delivery service to national media

PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to discuss the national medicines delivery service for shielded patients. 

PSNC has been supporting NHSE&I in its work with the Royal Voluntary Service to allow volunteers to support the delivery of prescriptions during the pandemic, where the pharmacy contractor wishes to use this support, but negotiations on how this will work continue.  

Referring to the use of NHS Volunteer Responders to deliver medicines, Mr Dukes raised concerns that current plans could leave vulnerable people at risk from fraudsters and potentially without their medicines. He explained: “Fraudsters could use this system to their own ends, by gaining trust, by gaining information on people and using it to exploit those people who are currently shielded and locked away in their own homes”. 

Describing working in a pharmacy as “a sometimes dangerous, thoroughly draining job” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Today’s political correspondent Ross Hawkins investigated and spoke to Mark Burdon, an independent community pharmacy contractor and PSNC Regional Representative for the North East and Cumbria. Mr Burdon talked about the impact of the situation on his mental and physical health, as well as on his pharmacy’s bank balance: “I’ve actually deleted the bank app because I just don’t want to have a look”. 

Mr Dukes also clarified on the programme that the £300 million promised to the sector so far to help with its role in the COVID-19 response is not new money, but rather just an advance on money pharmacies were due to get anyway as part of their core national funding.

Listen to the coverage on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:



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