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Scottish pharmacies get dedicated helpline to order free face masks

Community pharmacies in Scotland are now able to order face masks for free through a dedicated helpline, with the equipment “sourced and funded” by NHS Scotland.

Pharmacies needing “replenishment” of face masks can call a dedicated community pharmacy helpline managed by NHS National Services Scotland National Procurement (NSS). The helpline is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, an NSS spokesperson told C+D last week (April 22).

“This call centre and distribution is managed by National Procurement via arrangements agreed with [the] Scottish government, during the COVID-19 emergency”, the NSS spokesperson added.

The helpline exists in addition to NSS’s supply to health boards, the spokesperson said. Community pharmacies in need of extra supplies of face masks can call the helpline on 0300 3030 5550.

More than 1,200 personal protective equipment (PPE) items were sent to community pharmacies in Scotland in “early April”, according to the NSS spokesperson.

Community Pharmacy Scotland said on its website that “orders will be limited to two boxes of 50 masks each time to help manage supply” and asked pharmacies to wait to place their orders “until it is necessary”.

According to updated PPE guidance applicable across the UK, the use of fluid-resistant surgical masks is recommended “for contact with members of the public with possible or confirmed COVID-19”.

PPE across the UK

Pharmacies in Northern Ireland can reorder PPE free of charge, a Health and Social Care Board spokesperson told C+D last week (April 22).

“Northern Ireland is funding PPE for community pharmacies to use in line with PHE guidelines: supplies have been delivered and arrangements are in place for re-ordering,” they added.

A Welsh government spokesperson told C+D last week (April 22) that it is distributing PPE to frontline workers “including to pharmacists”.

“So far we have issued more than 48m extra pieces of PPE from our central and pandemic stores,” they added.

However, Community Pharmacy Wales CEO Russell Goodway told C+D last week (April 22) that although “most community pharmacies have received an initial supply of PPE”, this did not “last long” and pharmacy owners have had to “purchase PPE to ensure that their staff members feel confident enough to turn up for work”.

“The Welsh government has indicated that further supplies are available from health boards,” free of charge, according to Mr Goodway.

However, “pharmacies are finding it difficult to access supplies, often because health boards suggest  that the guidance suggests community pharmacies are not the priority,” Mr Goodway said.

Meanwhile, pharmacies in England have been asked to purchase face masks from wholesalers AAH, Alliance Healthcare and Phoenix, but some pharmacists have told C+D that the wholesalers are already out of stock or that the supplies are difficult to get hold of.

Community pharmacies in England in need of an emergency supply of PPE can call the national supply disruption line on 0800 915 9964. However, pharmacies had told C+D they are also struggling to order PPE through this route.

What do you make of this NHS Scotland funded helpline?

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