Supporting our pharmacists to support you

Written by: Irene Oldfather, Director of Strategy and Engagement, the ALLIANCE

Published: 01/04/2020

Photo of a set of weighing scales in front of shelves containing boxes of medication

Irene considers the crucial role of the community pharmacy sector in supporting people during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the work of health care providers across the nation. And in the midst of rapid changes and new demands, COVID-19 has demonstrated that across the NHS we have a range of highly trained professionals who can support communities in a number of ways.

Having facilitated both the national conversation on health and wellbeing and the views of communities on the GP contract, it was clear at that time that while people understood the importance of multidisciplinary teams within primary care, many still felt “seeing the doctor” was best to resolve their health condition.

Much has changed and pharmacies are meeting the challenge of the current situation with evolving roles and responsibilities head-on.

Our pharmacists many of whom can now, not only dispense but write prescriptions, can competently deal with many issues from minor ailments, to prescribing medication across a range of areas such as urinary tract and eye infections. The local pharmacy can also do blood pressure and other diagnostic testing, and importantly advise on drug combinations and reactions as experts in the field.

As people experience anxiety over coronavirus, more people are now turning to their Community Pharmacist with shops now often open longer hours and 7 days a week. Alongside our amazing NHS workers, pharmacists are putting in huge efforts to deal with the scale of COVID-19 by working tirelessly on the front-line.

The setting up of an army of volunteers through Scotland Cares and the British Red Cross is intended to support pharmacies by helping with deliveries to the most vulnerable.

As these measures are currently in planning and different in different areas, it may be worth checking with your local council to see what arrangements are in place for volunteer support.

We can all help in different ways, as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has highlighted.

  • Follow Government advice and do not visit a pharmacy if you or anyone in your household is displaying symptoms for coronavirus, even if mild.
  • Plan ahead where possible by ordering your prescription seven days before it’s due and completing all contact details on prescriptions in full.
  • If you are self-isolating provide consent for family, friends or neighbours to pick up your medication for you and do the same for others if they are self-isolating. If you don’t have anyone who can collect your medicine, speak to your community pharmacy for advice about how they can help.
  • Do not ask for extra medicine or an increase in prescription duration as this could lead to overall medicines shortages. Continue to request as normal and do not stockpile.

Maintain hygiene and wash your hands.

Thanks to all our pharmacists and amazing volunteers and to all of vulnerable people and those with long term conditions – stay safe and keep well.

Please note, the information contained in this Opinion piece is accurate as of the date of publication – 1 April 2020.

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