Pharmacies remained open “despite the challenges and concerns that COVID-19 brought”, Dr Sian Tucker, chair of the National Out of Hours Operations Group at NHS Scotland, highlighted in a letter to community pharmacies last week (September 14).
The GP OOH services are “very grateful” for this, she added. “We are aware that we could not have managed without you all,” Dr Tucker wrote to Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) on behalf of the GP OOH services in Scotland.
Not same protections
The OOH services “stepped up [their] telephone and video consultations” during the pandemic, to manage patients “in the safest way possible”, Dr Tucker said.
Pharmacy teams did not enjoy the same “protection of NHS 24 triage” and did not always have the option to manage patients virtually, “which made your job more challenging and you more vulnerable”, she acknowledged.
“So please accept our thanks for everything you did and are still doing: I look forward to continuing to work closely together to improve care for our patients,” Dr Tucker said.
“Refreshing” recognition from key partners
CPS director of operations Matt Barclay said the letter “shows genuine appreciation from the OOH community”.
“We look forward to working with colleagues through the current NHS Scotland remobilisation work to build on this positivity and enhance the partnerships and, in turn, the care we provide,” he said.
Mr Barclay added that the impact of community pharmacy on patient care and the delivery of NHS services has “often been forgotten”, but that those in the sector are aware of how hard community pharmacy teams work.
“COVID-19 has brought this to the fore and it is refreshing to have recognition like this from key healthcare partners,” he added.
Subject to local needs, Scottish pharmacies will this year be involved in the national flu vaccination service for the first time, C+D learnt last month. This follows the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which grants temporary powers to healthcare professionals to give vaccines during the pandemic.
On July 29, the NHS Pharmacy First service launched in Scotland, seeing pharmacists offer free advice, treatment or supply of medicines – supported by national patient group directions – to patients presenting with urinary tract infections and impetigo.