Pharmacist checking stocks in store

A pharmacy contractor has warned fellow contractors to be “extremely careful” while signing up NHS volunteers for the delivery of medicines to vulnerable patients.

His warning comes as thousands of approved volunteers have been offered tasks from Tuesday (April 7) via the GoodSAM app to help people at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Community pharmacy contractors will be asked to use the volunteer-led medicines delivery service to deliver drugs to shielded patients.

Calling it a “crazy scheme,” pharmacy contractor Mike Hewitson argued that pharmacies would have to accept liabilities if volunteers were to make any mistakes.

“I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole,” he told Pharmacy Business, adding that despite some assurance from the pharmacy regulator GPhC, “at the end of the day the courts will make their own decisions. It will be pharmacies who will be put at risk by this.”

Hewitson explained: “This is madness because you’ve got an extremely vulnerable group of people who are potentially put at risk by unvetted volunteers. None of these people would have had any criminal record checks, for example, so you are allowing a group of violent criminals, fraudsters, sexual offenders into close contact with an extremely vulnerable group of people.”

In its guidance for health professionals on Volunteer Responders, the NHS said on March 31 that only “patient transport drivers” – volunteers tasked to provide “transport to patients who are ready for discharge and ensure that they are settled safely back into their homes” – will be DBS checked.

Hewitson’s advice to pharmacy contractors keen on seeking help from volunteers is to check what services offered by their local authorities, who could have had safer checks in place.

“There are councils operating much better schemes – I’d personally go to the council scheme before even considering this NHS scheme which is an absolute death trap.”

Meanwhile, Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said that the negotiator had “considerable concerns about the potential risks of using volunteers to deliver medicines to vulnerable people.

“We are continuing to work hard to find a way forward that allows pharmacies to work collaboratively with these volunteers, the vast majority of whom are selflessly offering their own time to support the NHS through this crisis, for the benefit of the NHS and patients.”

Dukes told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he had concerns that the current plans could leave vulnerable people at risk from fraudsters and potentially without their medicines.

The negotiator said it has been in urgent talks with the government to ensure that pharmacies are only “required to use DBS-checked volunteers to deliver medicines.” However, it added that the discussions were taken longer than expected anticipated.

“We are continuing to work through the negotiations to ensure that pharmacies do not face undue workload or liabilities as a result of this new service and the involvement of the volunteer network,” PSNC noted.

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