“Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
This is the simple message being delivered by the UK government as it attempts to manage the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The NHS is an invaluable national asset that provides healthcare that is free at the point of use and accessible to those in need. Across the UK, support and appreciation are being given to our wonderful NHS staff, who are working selflessly at the front line of this pandemic. However, let’s take this opportunity to also spare a thought for the community pharmacists and their teams working tirelessly to ensure that every individual continues to get the medication and care that they need .
Pharmacists are working harder than ever, providing essential supplies and prescription medications; dealing with the additional demand for healthcare advice and services due to the closure of many GP surgery services; and managing stocks of essential medications – all while pharmacies are operating at reduced staffing levels due to illness and isolation requirements.
It is essential that community pharmacy services are protected throughout the duration of this pandemic. This article offers some advice on how you can support your local pharmacy team to ensure that they are able to continue providing you with high-quality care.
Follow government advice
Working at the front line of community healthcare means that pharmacy staff are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Consequently, staff illness places further pressure on managing pharmacy workload; therefore, reasonable precautions must be taken in order to protect pharmacy staff and services. The most meaningful support you can give is to follow government advice and do not visit a pharmacy if you or anyone in your household has a high temperature or a new, continuous cough, even if it is mild .
Pharmacies across the UK have reported a three-fold increase in workload since the COVID-19 outbreak began . You can support your pharmacy in managing their workload by planning ahead and ordering your prescription at least seven days before it is due .
Support your neighbours, family and friends
Staff shortages and increased demand mean that many pharmacy delivery services are already overstretched, so please bear this in mind if you need to collect a prescription. If you are self‑isolating, please ask a neighbour, family member or friend to pick up your prescription for you (they may need to take ID with them and will need to know your full name and address); if you don’t have anyone who can collect your prescription for you, then call your pharmacy for advice .
Don’t stockpile medications
It is understandable that patients will be concerned about running out of important medications during these times of uncertainty. However, it is vitally important that you do not stockpile medications or ask for an increase in your prescription duration, as this could lead to a nationwide shortage of medicine .
Help them to help you
Being patient and polite to pharmacy staff is another valuable way that you can offer support during this challenging time . Despite their hard work and best efforts, it is inevitable that services will not be running as quickly and efficiently as in normal circumstances. Pharmacy teams face great challenges in the coming months; therefore, showing understanding and kindness to pharmacy staff will support their mental well-being and empower them to be there for their community at a time when they are needed the most.
- Royal Pharmaceutical Society. RPS England calls for recognition of pharmacy in COVID-19 response. Available at: https://www.rpharms.com/about-us/news/details/rps-england-calls-for-recognition-of-pharmacy-in-covid-19-response. Accessed April 2020.
- Royal Pharmaceutical Society. RPS shares advice for the public on how they can support pharmacies. Available at: https://www.rpharms.com/about-us/news/details/rps-shares-advice-for-the-public-on-how-they-can-support-pharmacies. Accessed April 2020.
- BBC News. Coronavirus: Inside a community pharmacy under pressure. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/health-52008198/coronavirus-inside-a-community-pharmacy-under-pressure. Accessed April 2020.
- Royal Pharmaceutical Society. COVID-19 pharmacy poster. Available at: https://www.rpharms.com/Portals/0/RPS%20image%20library/Graphics/00228%20001a%202003%20COVID19%20Pharmacy%20Poster%20ENGLAND%20PRINT.pdf. Accessed April 2020.