Mr Ridge wrote a letter to community pharmacies yesterday (March 9), in which he recognised the “new and increasing challenge” that coronavirus poses for “already busy pharmacies”.
Gloves, aprons and fluid-repellent masks should be ordered from wholesalers for use by pharmacy teams but not sold to the public, Mr Ridge stressed.
PHE is collaborating with wholesalers to “ensure their stocks are replenished”, he said.
Mr Ridge added that packs containing gloves, aprons and fluid-repellent face masks will be “delivered to general practices early this week”. A “similar pack” will be sent out to pharmacies “later this week and early next week”.
“Strictly enforced arrangements for further replenishment will be in place,” Mr Ridge said, commenting that these would be ”communicated to [pharmacies] shortly.”
The four-page letter also highlights the cancellation of the national clinical audit, the need to prevent patients from stockpiling medicines and the importance of pharmacies putting business continuity plans in place.
Pharmacies should create business continuity plans that identify “specific roles and actions” that could “support managing local demand” and “work in collaboration with” local healthcare providers, Mr Ridge said.
He also suggested that pharmacies with online booking systems make it clear at the booking stage that those potentially infected with the virus should not visit the pharmacy, but should instead self-isolate.
The letter reiterated that pharmacies should not encourage patient to stockpile medicines, which could "impact adversely on the supply chain and result in shortages”.
Official guidance for community pharmacy was published by NHS England last week (February 27).
PSNC: “Pressing for further support”
This week, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) will be entering into “detailed discussions” with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS England and NHS Improvement to “plan for the potential later phases” of the outbreak, the organisation said yesterday (March 9).
“We will be pressing for further support and protection for pharmacies that are already being impacted by the outbreak in the UK,” the PSNC announced.
The negotiating body explained it is looking to secure “cash flow solutions should contractors have to deal with rapidly rising medicines prices” and funding for pharmacies that have to close temporarily due to coronavirus. The arrangements would form part of the community pharmacy contractual framework.
The PSNC said it will also discuss how pharmacies could support patients with the virus who are self-isolating, and the potential redeployment of pharmacy staff to other community pharmacies or healthcare settings.