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One in four feel their pharmacy team has coped well with pandemic

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Pharmacy teams have coped well with the pandemic, but it has been tough, C+D's survey found
Pharmacy teams have coped well with the pandemic, but it has been tough, C+D's survey found

Pharmacy teams have adapted well to the added pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many are struggling with the increased demand for their services, a C+D survey has found.

Almost a quarter (24%) of the 865 survey respondents who answered the question of how their teams had dealt with the COVID-19 outbreak said they had coped “really well” and had been “getting on with it and adapting to the situation”.

Just over a third (36%) said their team had been “brilliant but were overwhelmed by demand” and that it had been “tough”, while 18% said colleagues were doing what was needed but were struggling with the added stress of the pandemic.

The C+D survey, which ran between April 1 and May 10,  revealed that a further 12% of respondents said their team had a mix of feelings about the situation, with some staff members coping better than others. The remaining 10% said their team had been "really worried" and that it was "hard to keep them reassured".

Added pressures

Pharmacy teams across the UK have faced significant pressures during the pandemic, including increased demand for medicines home delivery, difficulty sourcing adequate personal protective equipment and in some cases up to triple the usual volume of prescriptions to dispense.

Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies told C+D yesterday (May 26) that the pandemic has demonstrated “that pharmacy is a key part of primary care”.

She praised community pharmacy teams for going “above and beyond”, working “extremely hard under pressure” and “going to work and providing care for their patients” throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. The way the sector has responded to the pandemic “demonstrates a lot of courage”, she added.

‘Fair funding not symbolic gestures’

The survey, to which a total of 1,018 community pharmacy professionals across the UK responded, also asked pharmacy teams what support they most need to tackle the crisis, including:

  • Additional funding to hire extra staff and offer more to help self-isolating patients.
  • Improved communication on medicine shortages
  • Improvements to the reimbursement system for medicines
  • The ability to swap all medicines on prescriptions for equivalent alternative
  • Recognition from NHS England (NHSE) for pharmacy teams’ hard work during the pandemic
  • Clearer direction from the General Pharmaceutical Counciland the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) on what support pharmacies can expect and what is expected of them during the pandemic.

More than half (52%) of the 873 respondents to this question said they needed all of this support.

One respondent commented: “Reimbursement does not match the cost of procurement and our services are not sustainable long term. Pharmacy businesses with mortgages will soon go bust and we should be prepared for further disruption to local services.”

Another said they needed “proper reimbursement for medicines” and “recognition from NHSE in the form of fair funding”, not just symbolic gestures”, while others highlighted the need for an “immediate cash injection” and a “complete change in attitude from our paymasters at NHSE”.

Ms Hannbeck agreed that “additional funding is required”. For “pharmacy to be able to sustain this level of service going forward, particularly if there is a second wave [of COVID-19], there has to be additional funding”, she said.

‘Out of control’ abuse

Other support that was cited as needed included “guidelines on how to open safely”, “timely communication from NHS England” and “proper funding for protective screens”. NHSE has made a £300 payment to all pharmacies to cover the cost of these screens, but the PSNC has said some contractors are reporting high prices for the equipment.

A number of respondents also pointed to needing more support to combat the increase in abuse from patients. One respondent commented: “When GPs closed their doors everyone came into the pharmacy. We were getting abuse for things beyond our control.”

Another said the abuse directed at their team has been “out of control” and that a “huge campaign” is needed to improve the public perception of pharmacy.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has been in touch with the police about the increase in abuse, and requested greater support and protection for pharmacy teams.

Other findings from the survey include how pharmacy teams feel about the government’s response to the pandemic, and the impact of COVID-19 related medicines shortages.

4 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of these findings?

Cymraeg Locum, Locum pharmacist

The staff have been incredible in the pharmacies in which I've worked across south Wales. They've worked so hard right through this pandemic and managed to keep the system going and provide patients with their medication in very difficult circumstances.

The manner in which GP surgeries closed their doors and issued three month post dated scripts and off loaded their prescription workload onto Pharmacies nearly brought us to our knees. Its led to horrendous problems ranging from confusion amongst patients and panic over whether they'll receive their medicines to prescribing incidents where post dated scripts don't reflect any medicine changes that may have occurred during that three month period.

I know the Pharmacy staff are all exhausted and spent now that the initial first wave is in decline. Given the complete lack of recognition from the Government, DoH, media, journalists and press, and other Primary Care Health Professionals, I just want to say THANK YOU for everything you do. 

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

And the simple reason why is that we are always willing to do stuff for NOTHING. Wake up and smell the coffee !!

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

https://nhsstafffeedbackhub.ipsos-space.com/ a good way to get your feelings across!

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I think ALL pharmacy teams have coped remarkably well - compare us to the other so-called healthcare professionals who all looked after No1 and weren't seen for dust once the lockdown started - yes, I'm talking about YOU, GPs and dentists, leaving all the crap for pharmacists to deal with as per usual. None of us hid ourselves away, we all remained on, if not the absolute front line like the hospital nurses and doctors (who are exempt from my criticism - THEY have put their fellow medics in general practice to shame) then not far behind in terms of potential contact with the virus. I think we have proved our worth many times over across this whole virus chaos but that won't mean a single thing when everything is back to normal, GPs have polished their image back up and we are relegated back to the gutter where we seem to belong nowadays.

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