Retired pharmacists, who could be called back into pharmacies to help with the coronavirus, must not be pressured into doing so, the Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) has urged.

Today (12 March), the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) signed off its re-registration arrangements, which could see up to 5,800 deregistered pharmacists and pharmacy technicians drafted in to support the sector in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Under the policy, the Council can temporarily register ‘fit, proper and suitably experienced’ former pharmacists and technicians, in the event that an emergency is declared by the government.

In the first instance, the GPhC could deploy 2,700 pharmacists and 1,300 pharmacy technicians who voluntarily took themselves of the register within the last two years.

A second phase could see an extra 900 pharmacists and 900 technicians called back into work on a temporary basis.

The PDA welcomed the practicality of the proposals but noted that any retired staff who go back to work temporarily must do so of their own volition.  

‘Such a change will enable those retired pharmacists who wish to participate in and support any emergency programmes to do so. However, it must be recognised that pharmacists who choose to retire, usually do so for a reason.

‘It must therefore not become an unreasonable expectation or become a device which is used to pressurise retired pharmacists who are uncomfortable about returning to practice to do so,’ a spokesperson said.

The PDA added that returning pharmacists must have clearly outlined terms for the work they will be expected to carry out.

‘At all times, such a proposal to participate and support the national Covid-19 response must lead to pharmacists being able to practice if they wish to, enabling them to do so safely and in a way that minimises their risk of regulatory or other exposure.

‘We expect that our members will also want to have clear proposals that explain aspects such as hours, location and the defined terms and scope of their work so that they are fully aware of what is being asked of them,’ the spokesperson said.

Yesterday (11 March), the government promised to dedicate an initial £5bn to help the NHS get through the coronavirus outbreak

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the regulator announced that pharmacy inspections ‘under review’ during coronavirus.