NHS England’s medical director has advised the public to use community pharmacies for health advice if they are ‘unsure of where to go’ during a second wave of Covid-19.
Speaking in a televised briefing today (12 October) Steve Powis said the NHS does not want patients to miss out or experience further delays in receiving treatment or operations.
He told the public to contact their GP if they have ‘cancer symptoms, an unusual lump or blood in their urine’, ‘emergency services for acute conditions’, and if they are ‘unsure of where to go use 111 services, your GP or local pharmacy’.
This comes after a BMA report, published last week, suggested that there had been ‘a significant reduction in non-Covid care and activity within the NHS and private sector’ since the start of the pandemic, with elective procedures cancelled, outpatient attendances down and fewer urgent cancer referrals.
Later in the briefing, Professor Powis said the NHS was ‘determined to get back to normal in terms of treating those patients’ [whose surgeries were cancelled or delayed during the first wave] and would do everything it possibly can to maintain those services.
Responding to today’s briefing, Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive, said that pharmacies should be recompensed for Covid-19 related costs.
‘As they were during the first wave of Covid-19 in England, community pharmacies’ doors remain open and their teams are ready and able to give healthcare advice to local communities and patients.
‘But for pharmacies to be able to continue to provide this critical NHS service through the pandemic, they must be repaid their costs of doing so and financed appropriately for the months and years ahead. I have once again written to HM Government on this topic today, urging them to fully recompense pharmacies for their Covid-19 related costs.’
Claire Anderson, chair of the English Pharmacy Board, also said that pharmacy teams needed ‘reassurances’ that they will be properly supported and resourced to protect the public during the second wave of Covid.
She added: ‘The profession must be included in any second wave planning, to ensure that the lessons learned from the first phase are taken into consideration.
‘We welcome any opportunity to engage with the Government and the NHS on this and will work to ensure pharmacy teams are properly supported to deliver patient care safely and effectively.’
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), welcomed Professor Powis’ public recognition of ‘the vital role that community pharmacies are playing throughout this pandemic’.
He added: ‘We will continue to work with the NHS and other stakeholders to press for the changes we believe are necessary to allow the sector to continue to provide its vital role.
‘These include a fair funding settlement that will allow the sector to absorb demand from the wider system and free up GPs’ time.’
PSNC has previously highlighted additional work carried out by pharmacies during the first wave of the pandemic that does not fall within the remit of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) – including helping patients to use health monitoring equipment and re-order repeat prescriptions, taking blood pressure readings, and delivering medicines.
In August, the body advised contractors to either not carry out these services or charge patients for them, due to the fact that this work was not being reimbursed.