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Pharmacists won’t face FtP proceedings for actions of NHS volunteers

Pharmacy professionals who use NHS COVID-19 volunteers “in good faith” will not face regulatory action for the helpers' actions, the GPhC and RPS have said.

In a joint statement today (April 15), the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said they “welcome” the new community pharmacy pandemic delivery service and the COVID-19 NHS volunteer responders initiative.

Pharmacy teams who use NHS volunteers “in line with the service specifications of the pandemic delivery service” will not be “regarded as responsible by us for actions of other people outside of their control,” the organisations added.

Pharmacies are required to ensure that vulnerable patients who are “shielding” at home still receive their medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic, and can use NHS volunteers to deliver medication if the patient does not have friends or family who can collect medicines on their behalf.

“Recommended” volunteers have criminal record checks

The RPS has produced guidance for volunteers, to help pharmacy teams “provide safe care to patients and the public”. It includes outlining that it is “recommended” volunteers have the relevant criminal record check for the UK nation they are in.

Highlighting that volunteers could include professionals with a pharmacy background – such as “retired pharmacists, those on a career break or from academia and education, students, technicians and dispensers”, the guidance states that it is “anticipated that healthcare professionals will be fast tracked though these [criminal record check] schemes”.

In the guidance, the RPS advises that pharmacy professionals “will be able to undertake a wider range of roles and tasks” and suggests pharmacies prioritise volunteers who have had a criminal record check and “those who are a registered professional, eg teacher”.

The RPS also draws attention to the need for pharmacies to plan how they will organise their volunteers, including “who will train them and show them how to do things”. Pharmacies should, the RPS said, consider if a member of the pharmacy team has capacity to do this, or if the task could be delegated to “a volunteer with the appropriate skills”.

The RPS said it had heard that paying some volunteers for certain tasks “might be easier for some” pharmacies and that they should, in such cases, agree with the volunteer how much they should be paid and how payment should be made – before they begin to carry out tasks.

"Support the use of NHS volunteers"

The GPhC and RPS said they would like to “reassure pharmacy teams and pharmacy owners that we support the use of NHS volunteers as an option to get medicines to extremely vulnerable people when it's not possible to use patient's own representatives or pharmacy delivery services”

“We would like to express our thanks to all pharmacy teams for their hard work and making sure that people continue to receive their medicines, and to the volunteers for offering to help pharmacy teams during the pandemic,” they added.

Last week, contractor Mike Hewitson argued in a blog for C+D that using untrained volunteers could put patients at harm, while Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said the volunteer initiative could be “exploited” by fraudsters.

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