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Pharmacies: Home delivery service ending at ‘short notice’ is a worry

DH: Patients can still access medicines through the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme
DH: Patients can still access medicines through the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme

LPCs and pharmacy contractors in England are worried the pandemic delivery service ended with too “short notice” and that the decision has not been well communicated to patients.

Under the service, which is coming to an end today (July 31), pharmacies could claim £5 per delivery, plus VAT, for bringing medicines to “shielded” patients.

As the government announced plans last month (June 22) to ease guidance for 2.2 million people who had been shielding since lockdown was introduced, NHS England and Improvement told pharmacies last month (June 30) that the pandemic delivery service would end on July 31.

Inform the public

Some local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) and pharmacy contractors have now said that they feel the end of the service has not been adequately communicated to the public.

Community Pharmacy North Yorkshire fears this means patients “may perceive the end of free deliveries as a pharmacy decision and not because the NHS is no longer funding the delivery service”, it said in a statement earlier this week (July 28).

North Yorkshire pharmacy contractor Charles Fox said he hopes the government runs “a campaign to inform the public that it is them and not the pharmacies who are stopping the pandemic delivery service”.

Dr Tania Cork, chief operating officer at North Staffs and Stoke LPC, told C+D today (July 31) that she agrees the service was ended at “short notice”, “but that is not the fault of community pharmacy or the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee”.

“I agree that the end of the service needs to be carefully communicated to patients[and] letters have been sent to shielding patients in England to inform them of the change,” Dr Cork said.

Stuart Nicholls, superintendent pharmacist at Marden Pharmacy in Marden, Kent told C+D yesterday (July 30) that the “sudden end to the pandemic delivery [service] seems illogical” as the virus is still circulating.

“We are trying to communicate [the end of the delivery service] to our patients but it’s not going down well as these people could now be exposed to greater risk if they have to leave home to collect their medicines,” he added.

Lack of funds for deliveries

While some pharmacies could continue delivering medicines to patients, “the vast majority will need to stop providing free deliveries on cost grounds”, according to Dr Cork.

Chris Armstrong, pharmacist and owner of Armstrong's Pharmacy in Sheffield, told C+D yesterday that he too believes the end of the pandemic home delivery service “has not been communicated well to patients and we will be stuck with unremunerated deliveries for some time to come”.

When the government communicated that its support package to shielding patients would end this month, East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey LPCs worked with “local authorities, local NHS and others” to ensure patients at risk were informed about making alternative arrangements when the pandemic delivery service ends, a spokesperson from Community Pharmacy Surrey and Sussex told C+D earlier this week (July 28).

The Department of Health and Social Care told C+D today that, those in need of support to receive food and medicines will still be able to access this through the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme.

Do you think the pandemic delivery service should have been extended?

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

The service should have continued for vulnerable patients. The planning has been poor. 

Alexander The Great, Community pharmacist

Id like to see figures of how much has actually been claimed by pharmacies. There were too many hoops to jump through for my independent to claim without the fear of being "fraudulent" so I didnt claim a penny.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Is that not the problem with a lot of 'services'? The claiming process is such a ball ache we just don't bother. It's the same with ETP - any additional endorsements are really difficult to add on, e.g. different flavours of Ensure, so we don't bother and all those individual little 'don't bothers' add up to a decent saving for the NHS. Most probably that was the plan all along.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I'd go a step further and say that the foundations of numerating the pharmacy business is outdated and needed a modernising overhaul. An extensive task, certainly, but needed.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I wonder if they'll re-instate it if the much talked about second wave comes or if they've realised that the country is rapidly becoming totally skint? TBH, I feel a bit sorry for the Government. They've done a lot of things wrong but this is unprecedented, they are making up policy on the hoof and hindsight is always 20:20. In my book, Rishi is exempt from criticism and at least BoJo had the decency to be really ill with this thing. It's a difficult balancing act they are having to do and it may well be that the delivery service is one plate they have to drop in order to  keep the rest of them spinning.

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