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Prince Charles praises pharmacy teams' ‘dedication’ at St James’s Palace reception

Prince Charles honoured the contributions of pharmacy teams throughout the COVID-19 pandemic at a reception he hosted at St James’s Palace.

About 200 pharmacy workers and health representatives attended the event last night (May 4), speaking with the prince throughout the evening.

In his closing speech, the prince thanked the attendees “for everything you do, so brilliantly, to keep people well and above all to save lives”.

“The dedication and professionalism of pharmacy staff has been clear to see,” he said, throughout the “unbelievably harrowing period” of the pandemic.

They have shown this by keeping “vulnerable people supplied with medicines, playing a key part in the NHS vaccination programme”, “supporting testing” and acting as “a vital source of healthcare advice to millions of people”.


Read more: #Pharmacy24: Meet the pharmacy teams who became COVID heroes in 2020


The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) was involved in planning yesterday evening’s event, though members from the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) and the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) were also present.

NPA chair Andrew Lane said: “It was a privilege to meet the Prince of Wales and to be among so many great pharmacy colleagues at this very special event. 

“His Royal Highness was very interested in what we do for our communities, and he really gets what we are all about as a profession.”



Pharmacists a “reassuring presence” in UK communities


As well as paying tribute to the tireless work of pharmacy teams throughout the pandemic, the prince sought to highlight their “efforts in ordinary times” too.

“I very much hope that this evening’s event will help, a little bit, to highlight the marvellous work you do in your communities day in and day out”.

“Pharmacies are about people and places, not just pills” 

He described them as “a very familiar fixture in the nation’s high streets and neighbourhoods”, which “people have come to rely on and value tremendously over generations”.

He praised their friendliness, accessibility and “reassuring presence in our communities”.

“Pharmacies are about people and places, not just pills,” he stated.

“You continue, ladies and gentlemen, to innovate and adapt to the rapidly evolving needs of patients and the NHS, and this includes developing your skills as prescribers, which seems to me of critical importance,” he said to the crowd.


Read more: Here’s what the public thinks of pharmacy’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic


The prince also noted the “splendid diversity” of the sector, which “certainly reflects modern Britain”.

“It is truly inspiring to know that this gathering includes people from so many of the different backgrounds that make up the pharmacy workforce today,” he added.


CCA members shared working experiences


CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison said he and his members were “delighted to be invited” to the reception.

“Pharmacists from CCA members were acknowledged for their extraordinary work during this challenging time and their unwavering commitment to patient care, despite the tremendous pressures they were confronted with.”


Read more: Boris Johnson visits Boots pharmacy-led COVID vaccination site in Uxbridge


CCA pharmacists Caroline Wells and Rob Severn were among those who spoke with the prince.

Ms Wells discussed her “initially daunting” return to practice during the pandemic, while Mr Severn pointed out “the importance of community pharmacies in delivering routine vaccinations going forward”, having delivered over 23.5 million COVID-19 vaccinations.



Pharmacy teams play “vital role” in NHS


NHS England and NHS Improvement also referred to the prince’s reception in a bulletin to primary care teams today (May 5).

The organisation used the occasion to “thank community pharmacy teams for the vital role you play as part of our NHS every day” and for their “critical” role “delivering the largest vaccination programme in NHS history”.

Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee vice chair Bharat Patel was “delighted to see this level of recognition for the work that community pharmacy teams do”.

“It was an honour to meet the prince, who seems to appreciate how the pharmacy sector stepped up during the pandemic and is enthused by the growing portfolio of pharmacy services making them even more valuable assets.”


AIMp: celebration “should belong to the whole sector”


Commenting on yesterday’s reception, AIMp CEO Leyla Hannbeck said: “Many of our members made a significant contribution to patient care during the pandemic.

“Furthermore, AIMp member pharmacies spearheaded a campaign in 2020 reflecting the role of pharmacies when the fears and unknowns of the pandemic were at their highest. Those visual images captured patients expressing their gratitude and support for their local community pharmacies — our campaign was acknowledged by the Royal Family and also globally on social media. 


Read more: Knights Pharmacy takes vaccine bus across Country Durham in drive to get public jabbed


“For many of our members the ultimate recognition is when they receive praise from their patients and customers, but celebrations such as the Royal event should belong to the whole sector and the whole profession, including those who are truly on the frontline, those who innovated, those who went the extra mile and made our sector and profession proud.”


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