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Community pharmacy services

Pandemic medicines delivery service expected to end on 31 July 2020, says pharmacy representative body

The NHS Medicines Delivery Service is likely to cease operation after July 2020, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has said.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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The NHS Medicines Delivery Service was launched to help shielding patients access their medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic

The NHS Medicines Delivery Service, which earned pharmacies in England at least £6m in its first two months of operation, is expected to end on 31 July 2020, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

The service was launched on 9 April 2020 to help patients who were advised to shield during the COVID-19 pandemic access their medicines.

It includes an advance delivery service, with pharmacies able to claim £6 per delivery, as well as an essential service for which pharmacies are paid up to £563 per month depending on dispensing volumes.

According to a statement on the PSNC website, published on 22 June 2020, both elements of the service are expected to end on 31 July 2020.

It said the PSNC was expecting “NHS England and NHS Improvement [NHSE&I] will write to pharmacy contractors in the next few days” to confirm the date, as part of its wider plans to ease restrictions for shielding patients.

The service was initially commissioned until 1 July 2020, with NHS England saying at its launch that the delivery service “may be extended as necessary as part of the COVID-19 response”.

The Department of Health and Social Care noted that community pharmacies had provided “over 1 million free medicine deliveries” in April and May 2020 through the NHS Medicines Delivery Service in its outline of plans to ease restrictions for patients shielding from COVID-19, published on 22 June 2020.

Community pharmacies delivering medicines under the advanced service are able to claim £6 per delivery, which suggests that more than £6m was available to the sector within the first two months of the service’s operation.

The government’s latest figures come after a housing, communities and local government minister said in a written statement to Parliament on 15 June 2020 that community pharmacies had provided more than 400,000 deliveries in April 2020 alone.

The closure of the delivery service would also end the essential service, which required all community pharmacies in England to advise shielding patients on how to identify family, friends or a volunteer to collect prescriptions for them or direct them to an advanced delivery service provider, if necessary.

However, the government plans added that the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme will continue “beyond the end of July [2020]”, with volunteers still able to collect medication if family and friends are unable to.

The PSNC statement said it “will issue further information to contractors via our usual communications channels once NHSE&I issue their communications on the extension of the service”.

“We will also consider what additional resources are required by contractors to assist them with provision of the service until the end of July [2020] and the need for the end of the NHS-funded service to be carefully communicated to shielded patients,” it added.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208099

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