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COVID-19: Pharmacies will be able to supply POMs without prescription

The government is in “urgent discussions” with the NHS about commissioning new services
The government is in “urgent discussions” with the NHS about commissioning new services

The government is “seeking to commission” community pharmacies to supply medicines without a prescription and deliver medicines to vulnerable patients, the PSNC announced today.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) is in “urgent discussions” with NHS England and NHS Improvement, and will issue “full guidance” on the two services to contractors “as soon as possible”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said in a statement today (March 19).

The announcement formed part of an update from the negotiator on the COVID-19 outbreak for pharmacy teams.

Under the plans, patients whose GP practice has been forced to close due to the virus will be able to get access to their medication without a prescription. "The service will be switched on locally as needed – this has already happened in some locations," the PSNC said.

A medicines delivery service for vulnerable patients who are self isolating at home has been guaranteed to receive additional funding that is being negotiated, it added.

The details of both services are subject to "urgent discussions" with the government, and guidance on them will be issued "as soon as possible", the negotiator said.

In light of the pandemic, the pharmacy quality scheme has also been postponed for three months, with the £18.75 million this releases “ delivered to contractors for activity associated with the COVID-19 response”, the PSNC said.

Other measures taken to support pharmacy teams amid the outbreak include postponing the hepatitis C testing service that was due to launch next month and three pharmacy integration fund pilots announced last month: blood pressure checking; stop smoking support and point of care testing.

A full list of changes that apply to community pharmacies following the COVID-19 outbreak is available on the PSNC website.

CPCS payments for phone consultations

Patients referred to pharmacies through the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) for upper respiratory tract infections that are not suspected to be COVID-19 cases are now being told to phone the pharmacy instead of visiting in person.

Unless there is a “clinical need” for patients to be seen in the pharmacy, the pharmacist can provide a telephone consultation “as is provided for in the service specification”, the PSNC said.

“If the consultation is conducted in this manner, the pharmacy is eligible to claim the fee for provision of the service,” it added.

While it said that “existing pilots for GP referrals” to the CPCS will remain in place, the PSNC said that they “will not be extended at this time”. The pilots had been scheduled to be extended later this year, potentially from October.

PSNC: We need “significant cash injection”

The PSNC has asked the government for a “significant cash injection” to “ensure the resilience of the sector, [the] supply chain and [to] prevent closures”, it said.

The negotiating body has also requested funding for the two new services; further reduction of other services –including “pausing” the new medicine service (NMS) and medicines use reviews (MURs). It has also asked for funding for pharmacies that have to temporarily close; measures to support cashflow during the pandemic and indemnity cover for redeployed pharmacy staff.

PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes acknowledged that pharmacy teams are “phenomenally busy” at the moment and said the “radio silence on national measures has been unhelpful, frustrating and worrying”.

“I hope this short update and the news on what is being done to protect pharmacies provides some reassurance that we and other pharmacy bodies have been working flat-out behind the scenes to make your case at the highest levels and will continue to do so,” he added.

What do you make of the new services?

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

The large multiples have never really cared about their customers and staff - they've always been coming and going over the years.

Edward H Rowan, Locum pharmacist

Sounds like good news, even if it only enables us to dispense and deliver medicines that the patient has had before. Prescriptions should have been 100% electronic years ago though. Health professionals communicating by scribbled notes on bits of paper in 2020? And while they're at it, let us know what's going to happen with the delivery service. Also, why not cancel all prescription charges for the near future? We can do without sharing pens and trying to work out what exemption applies to someone who sends a delivery driver to collect their meds. And what happened to the shortage protocol? We need to be authorised to make logical substitutions to scripts without any fuss. Once all the Chinese and Indian factories have been out of action for a couple of months, the HRT shortages will fade into insignificance.

Stephen McGonigle, Information Technology

Copy and Paste the contract between CPS and the Scottish Government. PSNC are not fit for purpose

David Kent, Community pharmacist

Why is this needed if sugeries are still issuing Rx.   It is open to widespread abuse.

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

Do those of us who actually cope- get the job done, do the extra deliveries without shutting our doors  get any extra praise or acknowledgement?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Do you need extra praise or acknowledgement?

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Thought about a career in comedy?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I did, but they all laughed at me!

Rajeshvari Patel, Community pharmacist

The phone doesn't stop ringing, patients who are on long term meds but able bodied and under 70 requesting delivery of their meds, Surgeries still issuing paper scripts inspite  of being told by NHS to issue electronic ones--receptionists who are the guardians not understanding and insisting we send someone to collect scripts at the door as they don't want to be exposed--on top of that CPCS referrals that take up to half hour if straight forward or longer if not. Crazy times but Independents managing better than multiples thru better planning and hands on approach--hang in there and help each other 

Farmer Cyst , Community pharmacist

Are we going to have to waste hours reading a million pages of service specs like we did for CPCS? That was a shambles.

Also I hope there is guidance on reporting contractors who claim the funding to deliver to infected patients but then push patients to send representatives in to the chemist instead and therefore put the team at risk.

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

I am also a moron

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

i would like a pic n mix please

Watto 59, Community pharmacist

PSNC have a golden opportunity to put put right some of their disastrous negotiating performances...  I hope they dont let DoH off lightly but fear they will.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

cue .......the multiples and owners to abuse this

Gary Choo, Superintendent Pharmacist

This affects ALL of us. Owners cannot afford to self isolate!  Managers in Multiples can get the virus too. So what is there to abuse in this situation?


Leon The Apothecary, Student

Owners cannot afford to self isolate!

You would advocate people going into a high-risk environment whilst sick during a pandemic? That seems very poor advice coming from a pharmacist.

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