We call for urgent action to cope with winter pressures

A likely resurgence of COVID-19 during the winter months means we are calling for urgent assurances about NHS plans for pharmacy across Great Britain. The risk of a second wave, combined with the demand from seasonal illnesses, means that the NHS must ensure robust plans are in place and that pharmacy’s role within them is clearly defined, resourced and enabled to meet the challenges head on. 

We’re pressing governments for confirmation that pharmacy teams in all settings will have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This must include culturally and gender sensitive PPE which ensures the whole pharmacy team can feel safe in their daily practise.

Alongside this sits the urgent need for meaningful risk assessments for all staff, particularly for our BAME colleagues for whom the prevalence and risks of COVID-19 transmission are higher.

We’re also demanding clarity on the role of pharmacists in the mass flu vaccination programme promised by governments. There is a clear role for community pharmacists to work in parallel with GPs to increase capacity both for the flu jab and in delivering the COVID-19 vaccination when available.

Commenting on key priorities for the forthcoming winter, Sandra Gidley, RPS President said:

“Urgent action is needed to prepare for the winter and we now need assurances from governments and the NHS that plans will have a clear pharmacy focus. To achieve this, pharmacists must be represented and heard in winter pressures planning processes and decisions.

“Plans must map out how community pharmacy can continue to deliver essential routine services and be mobilised and resourced to manage local and regional outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus.

“Throughout the pandemic the resilience of pharmacy teams has been tested to the limit.  Protecting pharmacy teams against the risks of burn-out and ensuring that mental health and wellbeing support services are available must be part of those plans.

“Above all, there must be assurances that all front-line pharmacists are protected from the risks of virus transmission while COVID-19 continues to circulate so they can continue to deliver effective patient care”.