Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Volunteering on the frontline

by Annamarie McGregor 

I recently volunteered to work in a community pharmacy in Paisley.

I used to work in the pharmacy, which helped me get over my initial nervousness as I walked past the queue to the door. The pharmacy is attached to a GP surgery and is generally very busy, but with the panic over COVID-19 the workload has gone through the roof.

I heard that two pharmacists and some staff stayed until 9.30pm one Friday and started work the next day at 8am. An additional three pharmacists volunteered that Saturday to help. The team is working late and coming in early most days.

A number of patients became anxious when they arrived as their prescriptions for insulin were not ready. It became clear the local GP practice repeat prescription telephone answer machine still stated the prescription will be ready in 48 hours – and it’s impossible to meet that time scale at the moment. I shared this with colleagues in RPS, who spoke to RCGP and BMA who agreed to advise GPs to change this message to 5 to 7 days until things go back to normal

The pharmacy had installed simple perspex shields to protect the staff which I shared photos of on twitter.  One of the big issues for the staff was lack on hand sanitisers, which were out of stock at wholesalers. I spoke to a few community colleagues and found an alternative supplier. I believe the NHS should be providing sanitisers to community pharmacies as well as the appropriate PPE.

Pharmacy staff are no doubt key workers, and are so clearly part of the NHS. It was lovely to hear so many patients making a point of thanking the team for all their hard work.

It was great to be able to help on the day and also help with some of the wider issues though my RPS role.

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