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NPA demands contingency fund for pharmacies to tackle coronavirus impact

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National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has called for a series of contingency measures for pharmacies to mitigate against the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The association said contingency funding is necessary for pharmacies that are forced to close due to staff shortages caused by the virus. It also asked for an NHS scheme to bring forward payments to pharmacy businesses and cover shortfalls.

With profitability at a low level and serious cash flow problems, pharmacies need support at this juncture as coronavirus could exacerbate these issues, NPA noted.

Mark Lyonette, NPA chief executive, said: “In addition to meeting requests for advice about preventing coronavirus, pharmacists are carrying on with their everyday tasks of treating minor illnesses, helping people to manage long term medical conditions, safely dispensing prescriptions and providing urgent care.

“As always, community pharmacy is playing an invaluable role by diverting routine activity away from other parts of the health service facing extra workload. Therefore it is very important that pharmacies are supported during this period, to stay operational as businesses and effective as frontline providers of patient care.”

Other measures suggested by the association include:

  • Ensure that pharmacies are included in any reporting of COVID-19 tests for their patients so that they can respond as required (for example closing for cleaning and re-opening)
  • Strengthen central guidance on how local responses to coronavirus will be managed and who will coordinate local responses and communication in relation to community pharmacy
  • Consider the knock-on impact of limited hospital capacity for palliative care; community pharmacies might find themselves helping more people in the community at end of life
  • Save time in the dispensing process by moving to original pack dispensing, rather than breaking packs to reach the prescribed number of tablets
  • In the event of medicines shortages, allow Serious Shortage Protocols to include branded generics, so that switches can be made without the need to return to the prescriber
  • Suspend obligations for non time-dependent pharmacy tasks (noting that the national clinical audit has been postponed in England).
  • Allow flexibility in relation to re-packing medicines for sale from a bulk pack
  • Recognise pharmacists and pharmacy staff as key workers in relation to measures designed to maintain vital services (for example travel measures).

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has earmarked in his budget statement on 11 March a £5 billion emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services in the fight against coronavirus.

NPA has also issued a coronavirus business continuity guidance for its members.

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