The chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England has praised pharmacy teams for demonstrating their ‘essential clinical role in the NHS system’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at PSNC’s virtual conference for local pharmaceutical committees yesterday (16 September), Dr Keith Ridge said: ‘You have much to be proud of as pharmacy and medicines professionals. Indeed, your response to the Covid pandemic has been of the highest order.’

He went on to discuss a ‘clinical future’ for the sector, as pilots for clinical services - that were initially paused due to Covid-19 - begin this autumn.

‘We plan to pile up three further clinical services including blood pressure testing, a referral from hospital to community pharmacy for smoking cessation, and a new role in supply and stocks of end of life medicines for palliative care,’ he said.

‘If these prove to be effective, we will introduce them across the country as soon as possible.’

Education and training developments

GP referral into the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service is also due to start this autumn, while a discharge medicines service will commence in the new year, Dr Ridge said.

He also spoke of developments around the accelerated reform of initial education and training for the MPharm and pre-registration, which are designed to ensure a ‘pipeline of pharmacists with clinical skills’ are available.

The existing pharmacy workforce will also be able to ‘accelerate their development to the same level of clinical competence’ through a new educational framework, which Dr Ridge is currently producing.

This framework is likely to include a ‘combination of credentialing existing portfolios of training and experience and agreeing on a personal development plan to get everyone up to the same level, including independent prescribing,’ he said.

The chief pharmaceutical officer also stressed the importance of ‘maintaining a rigorous focus on infection prevention and control’, in light of a potential second wave of Covid-19 this winter.

He highlighted some recent changes brought into place to help pharmacies remain Covid-19 secure, such as allowing verbal consent for flu vaccinations and the provision of some services to be held remotely.

‘We are currently working to introduce the ability for pharmacists to carry out video consultations from other premises, such as their own homes and we think this will be another major step forward,’ he added.

Dr Ridge also urged all eligible contractors, as well as their staff, to get a flu vaccination this winter, and to sign up for the national PPE portal ‘immediately’.

Last month, Public Health England (PHE) announced community pharmacy teams administering vaccinations this year do not need to use single-use personal protective equipment (PPE).