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Pharmacies provide more than 400,000 medicines deliveries in first month of pandemic service

Community pharmacies have been providing shielding individuals with free deliveries of their medicines since April.

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.

To learn more about coronavirus, please visit: https://www.rpharms.com/resources/pharmacy-guides/wuhan-novel-coronavirus

Parcel being labelled for delivery

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Community pharmacies provided 400,000 medicine deliveries in April 2020

Under the NHS Medicines Delivery Service, community pharmacies provided “over 400,000” medicine deliveries to shielding patients in April 2020, a government minister has said.

Community pharmacies delivering medicines under the advanced service, created as part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, can claim £6 per delivery, which suggests more than £2.4m was available to the sector within the first month of the service’s operation.

In a written statement to Parliament on 15 June 2020, Christopher Pincher, a housing, communities and local government minister, highlighted that the delivery service was available from both community pharmacies and dispensing doctors.

But he added: “In April alone community pharmacies provided over 400,000 free medicine deliveries to shielding individuals.”

As of 9 April 2020, all community pharmacies in England were required to advise shielding patients on how to identify family, friends or a volunteer to collect prescriptions for them as an essential service.

Where this was not possible, pharmacies were given the option of delivering the medicine themselves under the advanced service or arranging for another pharmacy to deliver it on their behalf.

According to NHS Digital figures published on 18 June 2020, there were 2,230,802 patients shielding in England as of 11 June 2020.

All pharmacies were promised a monthly payment of up to £563 for delivering the essential service, depending on dispensing volumes, with pharmacies offering the advanced service able to claim an additional £6 per delivery.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said the delivery service “has given the most vulnerable patients in England a vital route to access medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“Community pharmacy contractors and their teams have worked hard to arrange these deliveries in a safe manner to support patients through this difficult time,” he added.

The delivery service was initially commissioned until 1 July 2020. However, the PSNC said on its website that the future of the service “is currently being considered” by the government.

“This will no doubt be informed by wider changes that have started to be made to the recommendations to shielded patients, such as them being able to spend time outside once a day,” it said, adding that the PSNC would “shortly meet” with the government to discuss “any need for ongoing commissioning of the service”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208094

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