A pharmacy in Stoke-on-Trent advised customers that they have run out of hand sanitiser, as the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases grows around the world, Stoke-on-Trent, Britain, March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine

UK pharmacy leaders on Monday issued an appeal to the public, requesting them help pharmacies maintain vital services including medicines supply in the battle against coronavirus.

The open letter, issued jointly by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the Company Chemists Association (CCA), comes in the background of rising demand for products including hand sanitiser, paracetamol and toilet rolls, besides the increase in number of people visiting pharmacies for prescriptions.

The letter suggests a number of guidelines for patients, customers and the wider public to follow:

  • Act responsibly by not entering a pharmacy if you have symptoms of infection, such as a cough or fever.
  • Please ask friends or family who are symptom-free to collect essential medicines for you.
  • Only buy the medicines and supplies that you need right now to treat you and your family.
  • Follow any instructions from our pharmacists and pharmacy teams.
  • Treat our pharmacy teams in the way that you would wish to be treated yourself.
  • Keep up to date with the latest online advice from the NHS.

“Pharmacies provide important services and absorb pressure that would otherwise fall on other parts of the health care system,” commented Mark Lyonette, NPA chief executive. “We are asking the public to help us to continue to do our vital work on the NHS frontline.”

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, added: “We understand that people want to feel prepared given the uncertainty that coronavirus is creating. However, it’s important that everyone plays their part in reducing the spread of this virus and helping us to maintain the supply of medicines for all.”

Speaking to Pharmacy Business, Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, echoed similar sentiments.

“Yesterday the Prime Minister encouraged most people to work from home. This is an option that pharmacy teams do not have. They work on the front line putting themselves at risk to care for patients and they need appropriate protection,” Hannbeck said.

“We ask the public to be aware of the hard work community pharmacy teams are doing to deliver patient care during these difficult times.”

Hannbeck has also called on the government to support the “cash-starved sector” with emergency funding.

“As we move more and more toward social isolation, community pharmacy, like in other European countries, will be the only immediately available healthcare resource without an appointment. We ask the government to support this sector to allow us to continue being on the front line — many pharmacies are being asked to deliver medicines to self-isolating patients, to carry on this activity and meet the demand pharmacies need emergency funding,” she said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has risen to 1,543, up from 1,372 the day before, the health authorities said on Monday. The death toll rose to 55.

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