PhotoREUTERS/Toby Melville

The government is planning to commission two new services from the community pharmacy sector to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, PSNC revealed yesterday (19 March)

NHS Urgent Medicines Supply Service is intended for patients whose GP practice is closed, allowing them to continue receiving their medicines without a prescription.

PSNC said the service has been on in some locations, and will be switched on locally on an as-needed basis.

The second service, a Medicines Delivery Service, aims to support vulnerable patients self-isolating at home.

While details and funding of this service is under discussion, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have confirmed additional funding for such a service, PSNC said.

NHS bosses have earlier promised additional funding to cover extra costs of responding to the COVID-19 emergency for stakeholders including community pharmacies.

“Financial constraints must not and will not stand in the way of taking immediate and necessary action,” Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive and Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief operating officer said in a letter dated 17 March.

The letter also said NHS England it will temporarily suspend certain requirements on community pharmacists, with a guarantee to protect income.

PSNC has agreed a number of urgent measures with NHSE&I and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to help pharmacists, confirmed in in a joint letter sent to community pharmacists by Dr Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, and Ed Waller, director, Primary Care Strategy and NHS Contracts.

These include postponement of Pharmacy Quality Scheme and Hepatitis C testing service, an Advanced Service, for three months and Pharmacy Integration Fund pilots (blood pressure testing; stop smoking support; and point of care testing), until further notice.

Existing pilots for GP referrals to the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) will remain in place, but will not be extended at this time.

There won’t be action against pharmacists who have not completed community pharmacy patient questionnaire and pharmacy clinical audits by 31 March or those who have not updated their practice leaflets during the period of the pandemic.

All the public health campaigns, for the time being, will only be focused on the national COVID-19 response.

The current submission deadline for Data Security and Protection Toolkit has been amended from 31 March to 30 September. NHSE&I will not require data returns regarding NMS and MURs or complaints during the period of the pandemic.

The requirement for contractors to complete the National Antimicrobial Stewardship Clinical Audit for 2019-20 had already been waived. NHSE&I regional teams have also been asked to review the need for any local pharmacy Enhanced services.

The pharmacy is eligible to claim the fee for CPCS cases where consultation is provided by telephone to patients with upper respiratory tract symptoms, if there is no  clinical need for the patient to be seen in the pharmacy.

“There is much more to do, and PSNC is in ongoing and urgent discussions with NHSE&I and DHSC on a significant number of issues related to the COVID-19 response, while LPCs are also busy managing local responses,” said Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive.

“Our discussions are wide-ranging and will be ongoing as this situation continues to evolve. We will continue to work to get answers and solutions for you and we will continue updating you as soon as we are able to.”

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