The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is seeking clarity over the sector’s involvement as part of the wider NHS response to winter pressures, which this year could be combined with a “resurgence” of COVID-19, it said in a statement yesterday (August 12).
“The NHS must ensure robust plans are in place and that the sector’s role within them is clearly defined”, while governments across Great Britain need to clarify the role of pharmacists in the delivery of this year’s mass flu vaccination programme, the RPS said.
The professional body is also urging British governments to confirm that pharmacy teams will have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to “ensure they can feel safe during their daily practice”.
“Above all, there must be assurances that all front-line pharmacists are protected from the risks of virus transmission while COVID-19 continues to circulate so they can continue to deliver effective patient care,” RPS president Sandra Gidley said.
All pharmacy staff, especially those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background – who are found to be at greater risk from COVID-19 than their white counterparts – should also receive “meaningful” risk assessments, the RPS said.
A survey carried out by the RPS and the UK Black Pharmacists Association – the results of which were published earlier this week (August 11) – found that 24% of all pharmacists who responded are still waiting to be risk-assessed.
It is over three months that a letter from NHS England and Improvement encouraged employers to risk-assess staff at higher risk of contracting the virus.
Plans for winter
Commenting on the RPS’s call for assurances for the sector ahead of winter, Ms Gidley added that NHS plans for the coldest months of the year should also detail “how community pharmacy can continue to deliver essential routine services and be mobilised and resourced to manage local and regional outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus.”
A Welsh government spokesperson told C+D today (August 13) that “chief pharmacists and Health Board community pharmacy leads in Wales are already prioritising winter planning in their weekly discussions”.
The Wales Winter Protection Plan, which is expected to be published in September, “will clearly set out what is expected of those delivering our services, showing how we can work together to deliver safe, resilient services over the winter”, they added.
C+D has also approached the Department of Health and Social Care in England and the Scottish government for comment.