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Pharmacies can supply meds without responsible pharmacist in emergency

Pharmacies left without a responsible pharmacist or locum cover will not have to shut their doors during the COVID-19 outbreak, pharmacy regulators have said.

During these “highly challenging circumstances”, pharmacy staff might need to depart from established procedures to care for patients, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) CEO Duncan Rudkin and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) CEO Trevor Patterson said in a joint statement published yesterday (March 18).

Where the responsible pharmacist “unavoidably has to leave the pharmacy at short notice part-way through the day” because they are “unwell and need to self-isolate”, patients should still be able to collect their medicines, the regulators agreed.

“Where no locum cover can be secured at the pharmacy, and recognising the potential effects of the current pandemic, it would be in the patient’s best interest for medicines already dispensed to be supplied from the pharmacy rather than not supplied at all, even though this may not be in strict accordance with the law as normally understood,” Mr Rudkin and Mr Patterson wrote.

A GPhC spokesperson told C+D today (March 19) that it would not be necessary for pharmacists to notify the regulator if they had to leave the pharmacy without a locum cover first being found.

Support and directions

The GPhC and PSNI said that in such circumstances they “expect there to be access to a pharmacist by phone or video link to provide direction for the remaining staff in the pharmacy”.

“The pharmacy regulators will support pharmacy professionals in the front line making this judgement in patients’ best interests,” they added.

No other option

The regulators specified that this solution “should only be adopted for a short time period, where other options have been exhausted”.

“Except in such exceptional circumstances”, pharmacies must make arrangements for a pharmacist to be at the premises, “even in the current pandemic situation”, the GPhC and PSNI added.

The GPhC announced earlier this week that it has suspended all routine inspections to help pharmacy staff deal with the consequences of the virus.

It also said it will still fulfil its role of regulator by moving to a “supportive phase”, answering queries and providing support to pharmacy owners and staff.

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