PDA calls on NHS England to follow the example of NHS Scotland – COVID update 18

Whilst the highly supportive Scottish Government measures to support community pharmacists in Scotland were announced on Tuesday 7th April, pharmacists in England are asked to join the fight on COVID-19 with woefully inadequate resources according to the PDA. 

Tue 7th April 2020 The PDA

PDA calls on NHS England to value the sacrifices being made by community pharmacists and to follow the example set by NHS Scotland. 

In Scotland today, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Minister Jeane Freeman MSP acknowledged her support of the community pharmacy network by investing £5.3 million in the community pharmacy network. She said that this interim sum ‘would cover the costs of equipment, adaptations to premises, additional staffing and locum cover when they have sickness absence.’

All this was only an interim arrangement as she also pledged to meet in full, the additional costs faced by community pharmacy to support the NHS at this time.

She also acknowledged the extensive role of community pharmacy as a central part of the primary care workforce, recognising that it is now the location where most people will secure the health care and support that they need. She said it was an ‘incredible and invaluable service’ and thanked the sector for its work.

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary also reminded the public that they needed to recognise the work of community pharmacies as part of the wider NHS and have patience when waiting in queues for help. This follows reports by PDA members across the country of abuse and violence towards pharmacy staff by angry and frustrated patients.

PDA Chairman Mark Koziol said;

“For front line pharmacists in Scotland, this will be an incredibly moving announcement that genuinely recognises the challenges they face and values their support. It will allow owners to put additional staffing in place – such as a second pharmacist – and recognises the additional costs in coping with COVID-19. This is a real boost for pharmacists, their teams and for their employers”.  

To protect themselves from contracting COVID-19, many GP practices throughout the UK have chosen no longer to see most of their patients in face to face meetings but remotely. With an open-door policy and no need for an appointment, many millions of extra patients are now going to their community pharmacy instead and this has become the new front line on the war on COVID-19 in the community. Resulting in more than a 30% increase in patients visiting their pharmacy and a 15% reduction in staffing levels due to contracting Coronavirus themselves, the situation in English community pharmacies is getting more difficult each day.

In England, the community pharmacy network is trying to respond to the same extra-ordinary pressures as in Scotland, but on a much larger scale. It is trying to do so against a background of £100s of millions of reductions in funding imposed by the government in recent times.

From member feedback, the PDA knows that pharmacists want to cover additional shift patterns, they want to work alongside second pharmacists and with more staff to assist, they want to split their teams to improve resilience and give them at least the hope of an occasional rest break, but they are unable to do so as their employers just cannot afford the costs. In a large proportion of pharmacies, it is unsurprising that so many staff are falling ill as they have not even been provided with Personal Protective Equipment.

PDA Chairman Mark Koziol stated;

“Pharmacists working in England will be dismayed that NHS England attributes so little value to their incredibly hard work. 

Last week, whilst the Minister of Health persuaded the Chancellor to write off £13.4 billion of central NHS debt, he offered community pharmacists only a loan, the size of which does not even cover the cost of the additional drugs bill.  

In this war against the Coronavirus in England the community pharmacy troops are being asked to join the front line, without ammunition, without helmets, without rations and without re-enforcements; it is a travesty, that NHS England attributes so little value to the incredibly hard work being delivered by pharmacists and their teams. This cannot be allowed to continue any longer and we demand that NHS England provides at least the same support to the pharmacy front line teams as has the NHS in Scotland.” 

The PDA calls on Matt Hancock and NHS England to match the level of support provided to community pharmacists in Scotland or he must explain why pharmacists in English pharmacies are not worthy of such support.

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