The COVID-19 NHS volunteer responder service has been extended to support frontline health and social care staff, including pharmacy teams, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) told C+D yesterday (June 9).
The expansion of the volunteer scheme was announced by the DH last week (June 6). It enables health and care staff to access help from NHS volunteers, who can carry out tasks including delivering food shopping, dropping off personal medication to frontline staff at their homes and taking them “to their essential appointments”.
While the original announcement made no specific mention of pharmacy teams, referencing only “health and social care staff”, the DH has now confirmed to C+D that this expansion does cover the pharmacy sector.
The scheme will help health and care staff “protect those they care for by making fewer journeys and coming into contact with fewer people so they can focus on and continue their vital work,” the DH said.
Care minister Helen Whately said the government was expanding the volunteer scheme to support “all our wonderful health and care staff” and help them in “whatever way we can to make their lives easier while they continue to support others most in need”.
The NHS volunteer responders initiative was set up as part of the COVID-19 response and involves volunteers who carry out simple non-medical tasks to support people in England who are shielded, self-isolating or fall into a vulnerable group.
In April, the scheme came was criticised by legal experts, who argued that pharmacists could be held responsible for medication deliveries going wrong if volunteers were used as part of the pandemic delivery service. However, the General Pharmaceutical Council said it would not hold pharmacy teams responsible for “actions of other people outside of their control” in fitness-to-practise cases.
Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of Royal Voluntary Service, said she is “delighted” that staff working in health and social care can now draw on the help of NHS volunteer responders
“The opportunity for frontline staff to access help with their shopping and prescription deliveries will free up more of their time to care,” she added.