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COVID-19: Why I would return to a pharmacy as a 'medicine distributer'

“At this trying time, I’ve never been prouder to have qualified as a pharmacist”

Despite the insult of being called a “distributer of medicine”, C+D clinical editor Naimah Callachand says she will overcome her concerns to return to work in a pharmacy

Pharmacy professionals woke up this morning to the news that pharmacists and their teams were not explicitly named on the Department of Education list of “critical” workers battling against the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead, we have been titled “distributers of medicines”.

Many of us will feel anger and frustration at this phrasing, with “doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers” being named directly on the list, but not pharmacists. I completely empathise with the anger that everyone in the pharmacy community is feeling. It is demeaning that after years of study and hard work to get to where we are that we would be deemed merely “distributors of medicine”.

This harks back to the old debate on whether pharmacists are seen as mere ‘shopkeepers’. Pharmacists are key in ensuring the continued safe dispensing of medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are handling medicine shortages, stockpiling problems and counselling worried patients who are hurrying into pharmacies at an alarming rate. I’m not sure “distributor of medicines” gives the position the respect it deserves.

But it is important for us to maintain our professional integrity during these challenging times. Now more than ever, the true value of the pharmacy team and how dependent the public is upon us is abundantly clear. We have all heard the stories of teams working tirelessly on the frontline of COVID-19, dealing with panicked patients and stock shortages, not to mention the risk they expose themselves to in keeping their doors open to face-to-face contact with the public.

As a profession, we should be proud of the fundamental work we are doing in this time of crisis. I couldn’t be more in awe of my pharmacist colleagues. This is a challenging and uncertain time for all of us, and although we cannot see an end to what seems like a surreal nightmare, it’s important to remain positive and do everything in our power to help prevent the spread the virus and protect our elderly or vulnerable patients.

Yesterday the NHS called upon former pharmacy professionals to re-register so they can help in tackling the greatest global health threat in the history of the health service. Having not worked in a community pharmacy as a pharmacist for a few years now, if I’m truthful, I must admit this does fill me with certain apprehension. What if I’m not competent? What if I’ve forgotten everything and can’t even use the computer? How would I handle the pressure from the impact of COVID-19?

But at this trying time, I’ve never been prouder to have qualified as a pharmacist. If necessary, I will gladly overcome my worries to throw myself headfirst back into practice to ease some of the burden on my colleagues. The nation needs us. I urge all those who are able to help where they can. This is why we trained – to ensure the health and wellbeing of the public. That is more important than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the public being advised by the NHS to stay away from GP surgeries, community pharmacy is seeing an escalation in footfall, with some businesses now on their knees due to increasing levels of staff sickness. This is a worrying time for all pharmacies, some of which may be forced to close.

Who knows what the next few weeks will bring for community pharmacy? But I ask you all to stand by your pharmacy team and colleagues, present a united front and look after each other.

Tweet Naimah Callachand @CandDNaimah

Due to COVID-19, workers across UK pharmacy are under great pressure right now. If you would like to find out how you can help, take a look at current vacancies in and around your location. All levels of pharmacy professionals are needed.


Brian Plainer, Locum pharmacist

You poor well-meaning sap and potential lamb to the slaughter of our litigious detractors, inconsistently hostile public, indifferent government and headline-seeking press, ahead of even mentioning this killer virus.

I sincerely wish you well, you sweethearted and seemingly impervious young lady - you certainly express your desire to effect your professional integrity admirably.

However, a cool headed rethink would be advised from this 35 year pharmacist veteran. You have your whole life and well-being to live for . Of course it's your decision but please beware not to waste it on people who neither reciprocate nor put value to your care.

N P, Community pharmacist

After being an independent contractor for 37 years, nothing has changed for our "profession" and has infact gone backwards. Truth out of what the NHS really think of pharmacies as only medicine distributors. But then we should not be surprised after they remove Practice and Establishment payment. Sorry to say, for the first time in 37 years, to pay for my distribution overheads, my policy has changed to any advise given has to end with a sale.    

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

Absolutely no way I'm going back to community pharmacy in this. Helping ungrateful people at the cost of risking being infected and bringing the virus back home and infecting my family, and with such peanut salary and unsupportive companies? No thanks.

Sanjay Patel, Community pharmacist

Well what do you expect when we have weak so called representing bodies ( NPA PSNC) 

Wake up NPA and PSNC -make some noise -go out on major networks,social media etc and start representing us : be proactive for once .


Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

No way you'll see me return to that counter, after 10 years of abuse from multiples, owners, other HCPs, the public, regulators and authorities. I wasn't appreciated then when i put my health and registration on the line for every single customer...I'm more than happy working 5 days a week at home in my sector.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Literally an apt description of what 95% of what a dispensary does. Distribute Medicine. With some services on the side that optimise the aforementioned medicine distribution. 

Ex Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Don't you think that as a professional members in direct line of this pandemic you should at least be mentioned. At this point surgery aren't even seeing patients. We continue as normal. Do you not think it's right to be mentioned by profession rather than just that which they've written

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Honestly, at the risk of having an unpopular opinion, I do not think it is important. When there's an emergency, I'd rather be more focused on looking after patients. After the disease, then it's something to contemplate. Right now? Next to meaningless, in my humble opinion.

Sunil Kumar, Community pharmacist

#CommunityPharmacy #YourFrontlineNHS



ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

#publicnotgivingasinglef #pretenddoctors #glorifiedshopkeeper #sarcasm

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Shouldn't have expected anything else!  Community pharmacists are regarded as the lowest of the low!

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

I certainly consider myself more than a distrubuter of medicines!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Spotter of Differences, Provider of Services

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