Changing scope, returning to practice and volunteering

Extra help for pharmacy would be invaluable right now, with pharmacy teams across the country under huge pressure because of coronavirus. 

Could you volunteer to support pharmacy services? Or perhaps return temporarily to the register?

We're providing advice on roles or activities for you, based on your skills and experience.

Looking to return to practice or volunteer in pharmacy?

00235 2004 COVID19 Return to practice flowchart-AW

Want to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic but not sure where or how? 

Try our handy flowchart - it'll help you to work out what would be best for you - and for pharmacy.

Click on the image or here to download.

Employers and pharmacies - are you looking for volunteer support?

If you're looking to recruit or co-ordinate volunteers and want ideas on suitable tasks or roles and the skills or experience needed use our handy guidance to plan and prepare.

Returning to front-line practice

There have been fantastic offers of help from the profession in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, from colleagues in industry, academia, and other non-patient facing roles, and from retired pharmacists.

We can help you step back into the workplace as a competent, safe, effective practitioner. These are unprecedented times we all need to adapt and find new ways of working.

Things to consider

  • How much time can you commit? And what are your preferred working patterns? You may be required to work different hours to usual - including weekends
  • Would you prefer to work for a single employer or as a locum? Working as a locum can provide some flexibility
  • What sector are you planning to work in? If it's a sector that's new to you - or you haven’t worked in this sector for some time - what activities could you undertake until you were fully up to speed with current practice?

Check you have appropriate professional indemnity insurance.

Preparing for the front-line

Useful resources as you prepare for practice

Community practice
Hospital practice

Resources to use in practice

RPS Support

Contact our one-to-one support team if you have any specific queries.

We can help with:

  • Advice on meeting your professional obligations
  • Suggesting resources to bring your knowledge up-to-date
  • Helping you build your confidence as you return to practice.
My hospital trust has asked me to redeploy to a new clinical area – can I practice outside my speciality during this pandemic? 

We know that many of you are being asked to work outside your speciality during this pandemic.

This is reasonable and practical during this pandemic. However, you should always work within your competence.

If you do not feel competent or have concerns about what you are being asked to do speak to your manager. Do you need to do some CPD around the new speciality – perhaps review current treatments and evidence?  Is there any training available?  Or is it possible to move to other roles which you are competent in.

Take a look at our page on Clinical resources during COVID-19. Here you'll find a range of learning resources including:

  • Details of webinars, Vimeos etc to support you in this new area of practice
  • Various modules and in-depth learning
  • Latest information on the clinical management of COVID-19
  • Guidance on managing specific patient groups
  • Useful references.

If you do find yourself having to prescribe outside your competence in an emergency, you should provide the safest care you are able to, based on evidence and best practice. The aim should be to provide overall benefit for the patient.

Our guidance ‘Ethical, professional decision making in the COVID-19 pandemic’ will assist with making difficult decisions and ensure safe and effective care.  It contains guidance on structured decision making and includes some examples specific to the current pandemic. This framework can be used by all sectors of the profession. At this extraordinary time we will back you to use your professional judgement, skills and expertise to help people.

My hospital trust has asked me to redeploy to a new clinical area – can I practice outside my speciality during this pandemic? 

We know that many of you are being asked to work outside your speciality during this pandemic.

This is reasonable and practical during this pandemic. However, you should always work within your competence.

If you do not feel competent or have concerns about what you are being asked to do speak to your manager. Do you need to do some CPD around the new speciality – perhaps review current treatments and evidence?  Is there any training available?  Or is it possible to move to other roles which you are competent in.

Take a look at our page on Clinical resources during COVID-19. Here you'll find a range of learning resources including:

  • Details of webinars, Vimeos etc to support you in this new area of practice
  • Various modules and in-depth learning
  • Latest information on the clinical management of COVID-19
  • Guidance on managing specific patient groups
  • Useful references.

If you do find yourself having to prescribe outside your competence in an emergency, you should provide the safest care you are able to, based on evidence and best practice. The aim should be to provide overall benefit for the patient.

Our guidance ‘Ethical, professional decision making in the COVID-19 pandemic’ will assist with making difficult decisions and ensure safe and effective care.  It contains guidance on structured decision making and includes some examples specific to the current pandemic. This framework can be used by all sectors of the profession. At this extraordinary time we will back you to use your professional judgement, skills and expertise to help people.

What resources do you have available for pharmacists who are being asked by their hospital to practice in critical care during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Have a look at our page on Clinical resources during COVID-19. We have a large range of resources including:

  • ‘Introduction to Clinical Care’ which provides a brief understanding of the critical care patient and environment as well as some of the tools you will need to provide a basic clinical review
  • Details of webinars, Vimeos etc to support you in this new area of practice
  • Various modules and in-depth learning
  • Latest information on the clinical management of COVID-19
  • Guidance on managing specific patient groups
  • Useful references.

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Volunteering in pharmacy

Members of the public wanting to volunteer

Do NOT volunteer if you are...

  • Are under 18 years of age
  • Are in a high-risk group (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions)
  • Are self-isolating
  • Are showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection (even if mild).

How do I volunteer?

What skills and experience are needed?

  • Good communication skills, listening and speaking
  • Strong interpersonal and “people” skills
  • Empathy and compassion for patients
  • Willingness to work as a team
  • Good time management and organisational skills
  • Self-motivation and ability to work independently.

Do you have a Barring Services Certificate (England and Wales) or Standard Disclosure and PVG (Scotland)? Without these you may not be able to volunteer.

How could I be useful as a volunteer?

  • Delivering medicines to patients at home
  • Triaging patients in community pharmacy
  • Managing queues
  • Protecting social distancing
  • Answering telephone enquiries
  • Selling general products (not medicines)
  • Re-stocking shelves.

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Students wanting to volunteer

The good news is, even if you haven't qualified yet, there are many ways you can help pharmacy teams.

Do NOT volunteer if you are...

  • Under 18 years of age
  • In a high-risk group (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions)
  • Self-isolating
  • Showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection (even if mild).

How do I volunteer?

We have developed guidance in collaboration with pharmacy bodies for students looking to support the pharmacy workforce with the COVID-19 response.

Things to think about before you volunteer

  • How much time can you commit?
  • Will volunteering interfere with your undergraduate studies, course work, or assessments?
  • Can you support community and/or hospital teams?
  • Can you travel, e.g. do you have use of a car?
  • What activities are you willing and/or able to help with? See some suggested activities below

Remember: it is important to work within your scope and make sure you are trained by the employer in areas of work you need training.

The Pharmacy School’s Council have issued a statement on MPharm Student recruitment to assist with COVID-19 management.

Read the Pharmacy Schools Council statement on MPharm student recruitment to assist with Covid-19 management

Do you have a Barring Services Certificate (England and Wales) or Standard Disclosure and PVG (Scotland)? Without these you may not be able to volunteer.

How can I be useful as a volunteer?

As a student you are able to work in support staff roles without completing specific support staff training see GPhC for further information. You can:

  • Order, receive, maintain, monitor and issue pharmaceutical stock
  • Receive, assemble, check and dispense a prescription, in person or at a distance using pharmacy, other members of the pharmacy or wider healthcare team, or organisations
  • Counsel individuals (in person or remotely) 
  • Dispose of medicines and medical devices safely or advise on their safe disposal

More examples can be found in Appendix 1 of the GPhC requirements for pharmacy support staff

How can I be useful as a volunteer?

  • Delivering medicines to patients at home
  • Triaging patients in community pharmacy
  • Managing queues
  • Protecting social distancing
  • Answering telephone enquiries
  • Selling general products (not medicines)
  • Re-stocking shelves.

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Non-patient-facing pharmacists wanting to volunteer 

What if you want to volunteer, but haven’t worked in front line practice for a number of years? 

The good news is, pharmacy teams would value your support and time right now - even if it’s doing something you consider to be quite simple.

Do NOT volunteer if you are...

  • Are in a high-risk group (including those over 70, those who are pregnant or with underlying medical conditions)
  • Are self-isolating
  • Are showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection (even if mild).

How do I volunteer?

Things to think about before you volunteer

  • How much time can you commit?
  • Can you support community and/or hospital teams?
  • Can you travel, e.g. do you have use of a car?
  • What activities are you willing and/or able to help with? 

Do you have a Barring Services Certificate (England and Wales) or Standard Disclosure and PVG (Scotland)? Without these you may not be able to volunteer.

Remember it is important to work within your scope and make sure you are trained by the employer in areas of work you need training.

How can my experience be useful as a volunteer?

Your pharmacy experience means you can work in support staff roles without completing specific support staff training.

GPhC: Education and training requirements for pharmacy support staff

This includes:

  • Order, receive, maintain, monitor and issue pharmaceutical stock
  • Receive, assemble, check and dispense a prescription, in person or at a distance using pharmacy, other members of the pharmacy or wider healthcare team, or organisations
  • Counsel individuals (in person or remotely) 
  • Dispose of medicines and medical devices safely or advise on their safe disposal

More examples can be found in Appendix 1 of the GPhC requirements for pharmacy support staff 

How can I be useful as a volunteer?

  • Delivering medicines to patients at home
  • Triaging patients in community pharmacy
  • Managing queues
  • Protecting social distancing
  • Answering telephone enquiries
  • Selling general products (not medicines)
  • Re-stocking shelves.

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Retired pharmacists temporarily returning to register

What can you do if you want to volunteer, but haven’t worked in front line practice for a number of years? 

You may not feel confident supporting registered pharmacist activities, such as being a responsible pharmacist.

The good news is, pharmacy teams would value your support and time right now - even if it’s doing something you consider to be quite simple.

Do NOT volunteer if you are...

  • Are self-isolating
  • Are showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection (even if mild)

If you are in a vulnerable group or over 70 there may be things you can do from home such as phoning others who are self-isolating and might be on their own

How do I volunteer?

Things to think about before you volunteer

  • How much time can you commit?
  • Can you support community and/or hospital teams?
  • Can you travel, e.g. do you have use of a car?
  • What activities are you willing and/or able to help with? 

Do you have a Barring Services Certificate (England and Wales) or Standard Disclosure and PVG (Scotland)? Without these you may not be able to volunteer.

Remember it is important to work within your scope and make sure you are trained by the employer in areas of work you need training

How can my experience be useful as a volunteer?

Your pharmacy experience means you can work in support staff roles without completing specific support staff training.

GPhC: Education and training requirements for pharmacy support staff

This includes:

  • Order, receive, maintain, monitor and issue pharmaceutical stock
  • Receive, assemble, check and dispense a prescription, in person or at a distance using pharmacy, other members of the pharmacy or wider healthcare team, or organisations
  • Counsel individuals (in person or remotely) 
  • Dispose of medicines and medical devices safely or advise on their safe disposal

More examples can be found in Appendix 1 of the GPhC requirements for pharmacy support staff 

How can I be useful as a volunteer?

  • Delivering medicines to patients at home
  • Triaging patients in community pharmacy
  • Managing queues
  • Protecting social distancing
  • Answering telephone enquiries
  • Selling general products (not medicines)
  • Re-stocking shelves.
Are GPhC reinstating pharmacists to the register?

As of 27 March, the GPhC has temporarily reinstated 3332 pharmacists and 2909 pharmacy technicians to the register.  These pharmacy professionals, if they choose and are able to work, will reinforce the workforce and support colleagues in these challenging times. See GPhC website for further information.

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Resources  for pharmacists considering taking on a volunteer

Are there any requirements and training resources if I am considering taking on a volunteer to help with deliveries?

See our Returning to pharmacy or volunteering page which contains resources and signposting if you are considering using volunteers to help with deliveries.

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has pandemic training for volunteers and delivery of medicines.

PSNC has a Pandemic Delivery Service page which provides general guidance on delivering and on the use of volunteers.

There are also two free short training courses available to download from Buttercups Training: