Contractors in England are now required to ensure that shielded patients – “extremely vulnerable patients” who are protecting themselves against the coronavirus outbreak by “self-isolating at home” – can still receive their medicines, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said in an announcement last night (April 10).
As part of the community pharmacy pandemic delivery service, pharmacies will receive a monthly allowance to “recognise the work involved in supporting the group of shielded patients to obtain their medicines safely”, the PSNC added.
The exact amount is “aligned to the banding used for the transition payment”, with a pharmacy dispensing “the average number of prescriptions each month”, set to receive £500 a month.
In cases where no volunteers are available to deliver the medication, pharmacies will be able to claim £5 per delivery, plus an allowance for VAT, as part of a new advanced service commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement. This advanced service formally commenced earlier this week (April 9).
Both payments will be made from additional funding dedicated to responding to the pandemic, and are not part of the community pharmacy global sum.
Distance-selling pharmacies are excluded from the contractual obligations and advanced service, and therefore cannot claim the additional funding agreed for it.
Terms of service
Where shielded patients cannot identify a friend or family member to collect their prescription for them, the pharmacy must help the patient by advising on how to identify a volunteer to assist; deliver the medicine themselves; or arrange for another pharmacy to do so.
If a patient does not identify themselves as being shielded, but their prescription medicines “make the pharmacy team think they are within that group of extremely vulnerable patients” – for instance if they are taking immunosuppressant drugs – they should ask the patient if they have been asked to self-isolate for 12 weeks.
The full terms of service, including information on helping patients who are prescribed controlled drugs, are set out in the PSNC’s guidance page for the service.
PSNC “still has concerns”
PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said the service “will help to ensure that the most vulnerable patients in England can continue to receive the medicines they need, safely”.
“We are pleased that the logistics involved for pharmacies in this have been recognised and that this service is supported by extra funding for the sector,” Mr Dukes said.
Pharmacies are “of course allowed to continue” with any delivery arrangements they already have in place, including charging to deliver to patients outside of the shielded group,” Mr Dukes said.
However, he advised that home deliveries “should be prioritised to those who need them most during this pandemic”.