In talks with the NHS, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has stressed the difficulty community pharmacies will face as they support the COVID-19 booster programme

SHUTTER DIN sad pharmacy pharmacist stress

In talks held last week with NHS England, NHS Improvement, and the Department of Health and Social Care, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has warned the Government and NHS of the difficulty community pharmacies will face in the coming months and their need for support.

They focused on the COVID-19 vaccination programme, as those pharmacies that provide COVID-19 vaccination services will be pushed to put greater resources into delivering vaccinations, at the expense of their other services.

Other pharmacies will also feel that pressure, the PSNC stressed, as they can expect greater activity while their colleagues and general practice support the vaccination programme. Approximately 80% of general practices provide vaccination services, so pharmacies may expect more walk-in and phone-call requests for support from patients.

This comes at a time that is usually more pressured for pharmacies—this year in particular, the PSNC reports mounting pressure from contractors, ongoing workforce problems, capacity issues, and a rise in staffing costs.

In a press release, the PSNC emphasised that they are seeking ‘additional support to ease the pressure on all contractors, including those offering COVID-19 vaccinations. This could include through regulatory support, the removal of administrative burdens, and changes to the current Pharmacy Quality Scheme’.

PSNC Vice Chair and Independent Contractor Bharat Patel said: ‘Pharmacies have been there for local communities throughout the pandemic, and this will continue—our doors remain open to anyone in need. But pressures on pharmacy teams are mounting, and we urgently need the NHS and Government to take steps to relieve this to help us continue to do what we do best: helping every patient who walks through our doors, whatever they need.’

Clare Kerr, Head of Healthcare Policy and Strategy at McKesson UK and a member of PSNC’s Negotiating Team, said: ‘We all know the scale of the current crisis, and we support the Secretary of State’s direction this week that delivering the booster campaign must become the health service’s mission. Many more pharmacies would be willing to help by becoming vaccination centres.

‘But this combined effort by the health service will put yet more pressure on primary care. All pharmacies want to play their part in this mission – whether by vaccinating people or picking up displaced patients as GPs and others focus more of their resource onto the vaccination programme—but they need the backing and support of Government to reach their full potential to do so.’

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