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Scotland: Boards divert staff to pharmacy to help COVID-19 effort

Four health boards relocated members of their pharmacy teams to help in community pharmacies
Four health boards relocated members of their pharmacy teams to help in community pharmacies

Eight health boards in Scotland have already redeployed some of their pharmacy staff to work in the community or would be able to do so if needed, C+D has learned.

Four health boards have identified and redeployed a few members of their pharmacy teams to work in community pharmacies in an effort to support frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, they told C+D.

The remaining four who responded to C+D said they would be able to relocate some members of their staff to work in community pharmacy, but there have been no requests to do so as yet.

It comes as the Scottish Government published guidance last month (April 29) to help health boards safely redeploy their staff to work in a community setting if needed.

Redeployed to community pharmacy

Dr Crawford McGuffie, medical director at NHS Ayrshire & Arran, told C+D earlier this month (May 5) that the board has redeployed 19 of its pharmacy staff to community pharmacies.

Some of the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who were redeployed are continuing to help in community pharmacies, a spokesperson told C+D last week (May 13).

NHS Dumfries and Galloway had redeployed seven of its staff to community pharmacy as of last week (May 14). Of these, three student pharmacy technicians were asked to work in a community pharmacy full-time since the start of the pandemic. Two of them are still working in those roles, a spokesperson told C+D.

An NHS Dumfries and Galloway pharmacy support worker is helping pharmacies in Dumfries and Nithsdale with prescription deliveries to patients at home. The health board also temporarily redeployed one pharmacy technician, one pharmacy support worker and a pharmacist to help in community pharmacy, the spokesperson added.

NHS Fife identified around 15 staff members who could be transferred to work in community pharmacy, but it only needed to redeploy two of them as a “one-off” for four days, a spokesperson told C+D last week (May 13).

Processes in place

Professor Angela Timoney, director of pharmacy at NHS Lothian, told C+D earlier this month (May 6) that “in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS Lothian established a process that enables community pharmacies to notify us when there is a risk to the delivery of pharmaceutical care services either through exceptional demand, or significant workforce issues”.

As part of this mechanism, the health board can also redeploy NHS Lothian employed pharmacists or pharmacy technicians if needed. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the board has redeployed a primary care pharmacist to a community pharmacy, who worked there for three sessions before they returned to their regular job.

The board has also redeployed an NHS-employed pharmacy technician who is currently still working in a community pharmacy, a spokesperson told C+D last week (May 14).

NHS Forth Valley, NHS Grampian, NHS Orkney, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde told C+D that although they have mechanisms in place to redeploy their pharmacy staff to community pharmacy, this has not been needed yet.

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