The Community Pharmacy Home Delivery Service, which ensures that vulnerable patients shielding at home receive their medication, will be extended until 31 July, NHS England and NHS Improvement have announced.

This comes after the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced its plans to ease shielding advice from 6 July.

The extension of the delivery service has been put in place to give shielding people time to make alternative arrangements for access to their prescription medications.

From Monday (6 July), those previously shielding from coronavirus will be able to gather in groups of up to six people outdoors. They will also be able to form a ‘support bubble’ with people from one other household.

From 1 August, guidance will be eased even further: 2.2 million people on the shielding list in England will no longer be advised to shield - if virus infection rates continue to fall.

From August, the DHSC said, shielding people can go back to work if they cannot work from home and their workplace is ‘Covid secure’ in line with government guidance. Adhering to ‘strict social distancing measures’, people who are shielding can also visit shops and places of worship, while continuing to remain home ‘as much as possible’.

People on the list will also retain access to priority supermarket delivery slots and NHS volunteer and local council support.

When the delivery service was first introduced in April it was criticised by some of the sector for being very unsafe’ and ‘totally unworkable’, because of the risk posed to patients and staff.

However, in a PSNC press meeting last month, Simon Dukes praised the service and noted its positive impact on the sector and public during the pandemic.

The NHS Volunteer Responders programme will remain active after 31 July, and previously shielded and/or otherwise vulnerable patients can access this support by calling 0808 196 3646.