The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called for “urgent assurances about NHS plans for pharmacy” as fears grow over a winter resurgence of Covid-19 in the UK.

RPS is demanding clarity on the role of pharmacists in the upcoming mass flu vaccination programme, where it sees a clear role for community pharmacists to work in parallel with GPs to increase capacity – both for the flu jab as well as in delivering the Covid-19 vaccination when it becomes available.

It said the “NHS must ensure robust plans are in place” and clearly define pharmacy’s role within them so the sector is able live up to the challenges of a potential second wave, in addition to meeting demands from seasonal illnesses.

“Urgent action is needed to prepare for the winter and we now need assurances from governments and the NHS that plans will have a clear pharmacy focus,” Sandra Gidley, the RPS president, said in a statement today (Aug 12).

She added that “pharmacists must be represented and heard” in the government’s winter planning processes and decisions.

The society is also pressing governments for confirmation that pharmacy teams in all settings will have access to culturally appropriate and gender sensitive personal protective equipment so pharmacy teams can feel safe in their daily practise.

RPS also called for meaningful risk assessments for all staff, particularly those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds for whom the prevalence and risks of Covid-19 transmission are higher.

Commenting on key priorities for the forthcoming winter, Gidley added: “Plans must map out how community pharmacy can continue to deliver essential routine services and be mobilised and resourced to manage local and regional outbreaks of the Covid-19 virus.

“Throughout the pandemic the resilience of pharmacy teams has been tested to the limit.  Protecting pharmacy teams against the risks of burn-out and ensuring that mental health and wellbeing support services are available must be part of those plans.”

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