Through their frontline role in the Covid-19 pandemic, community pharmacy teams have demonstrated their value beyond all doubt
The UK pre-lockdown seems as distant now as the coronavirus threat did then. Covid-19 reached UK shores and started dominating the headlines in January, but life carried on more or less as normal.
Then in early March came the realisation that the UK was facing something very serious – and that community pharmacy was going to be on the frontline like never before.
Pandemic, patients and protection
An instruction to GPs to limit their face-to-face consultations delivered an influx of worried patients to pharmacies. Many sought to stockpile medicines ahead of a potential lockdown, while some were presenting with possible symptoms of Covid-19. It became clear this was not a passing phenomenon.
Unfortunately, many pharmacy teams have felt let down by the Government and the NHS. In England in particular, there have been concerns around funding and whether a £300 million cash ‘advance’ for the sector – not new money – will be enough to keep community pharmacy afloat. Negotiations continue.
The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been another controversial issue. True, PPE shortages are affecting the hospitals dealing with confirmed Covid-19 cases, but pharmacies are seeing more patients than any other primary care service and feel they are still at the back of the NHS queue.
Perhaps most worryingly, pharmacies continue to face shocking abuse from patients. Pharmacy Magazine’s Covid-19 surveys have laid bare the extent of the problem, with almost 80 per cent of pharmacists saying they and their teams had seen a rise in verbal abuse – and some seeing physical abuse such as coughing or spitting (see page 5).
Recognition and reward
PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes has thanked pharmacy teams for their efforts during the pandemic so far and added: “The work you are doing at this stressful and busy time is exceptional. At PSNC, we share your frustration about the slowness of the NHS to provide you with extra support, but my team and I also share an absolute determination to get recognition and reward for community pharmacy and we are doing everything we possibly can to do so.”
One thing never ceases to amaze me: no matter what the situation, whether it’s funding pressures, stock issues or a national health crisis – or all three at once – community pharmacy teams step up and play their part. And then some.
I’ve been taken aback recently by the impressive stories of how community pharmacy teams are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. They are ensuring customers and patients receive the care they expect and deserve, and have even found a handful of spare moments to go above and beyond with added gestures of good will and support for vulnerable people in their communities. We’ve rounded up some examples on page 6 – it’s a heartwarming read and only brushes the surface of what’s happening around the country.
All of this is being achieved in the most difficult of working environments. There are reports of limited personal protective equipment (PPE), increased workloads and, in some cases, unprecedented physical and verbal abuse from worried customers and patients. Let’s hope the increasing recognition for pharmacy teams from MPs and others in the national press recently will go some way to improving the situation.
It won’t be easy, and who knows what the next few months will bring, but I have every faith that community pharmacy will come out of this crisis stronger, increasingly resilient and more proud of its achievements than ever. Training Matters is here every step of the way, updating you with all the latest Covid-19 news and guidance as it happens.
To all community pharmacy teams, stay safe and keep going, you’re doing an incredible job.
Helena Beer, editor