NHS England said it will temporarily suspend certain requirements on community pharmacists with a guarantee to protect income.
In a letter dated 17 March, Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive and Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief operating officer, said they want to remove routine burdens from various stakeholders “to devote maximum operational effort to COVID readiness and response.”
“Income will be protected if other routine contracted work has to be substituted,” they added in the letter, which details next steps on NHS response to COVID-19.
The letter also promises additional funding to cover extra costs of responding to the COVID-19 emergency.
“Financial constraints must not and will not stand in the way of taking immediate and necessary action,” they said.
Specific financial guidance on how to estimate, report against, and be reimbursed for these costs will be issued this week, they added.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said the NHS response is “very encouraging.”
“Some of the essential asks we called for, such as providing an NHS funded delivery service for people self-isolating at home, and additional resourcing for the pharmacy network, have already been agreed, which is excellent news for pharmacists on the frontline,” commented Claire Anderson, chair of the RPS in England.
“It will come as a relief to many that there will be a more flexible approach to contract requirements, and payments to contractors who are required to close due to COVID-19 related reasons. It’s vital that income is protected when contract work has to re-focus on COVID-19 to care for patients.”
She demanded that proposals for enhanced health and wellbeing support must be extended to all pharmacists supporting the health service.
“As more people are discharged from hospitals back into communities there will be an increased impact on primary care services, which are already under pressure. Pharmacists in both secondary and primary care settings will be key to supporting medicines safety around the transfer of care.”