COVID-19: This week's updates for community pharmacies

Latest news, information and guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) for primary care teams (20th March)


Last week the COVID-19 outbreak officially became a pandemic and the UK response moved from the 'containment phase' to the 'delay phase'. The decision on moving to the next phase was taken by Government and was followed by the publishing of further guidance on the approach to managing the outbreak by Government and the NHS.

Please read the following important updates by clicking the individual accordion boxes below:

Updated posters for display at the entrance of pharmacies

Updated posters were published by Public Health England (PHE) today. Community pharmacies are advised to display the following ONE PHE poster so it is visible to people seeking to enter the premises.

COVID-19 poster for pharmacies - 17 March 2020.png

They can be downloaded from the PHE campaign resources hub.

The following previously issued posters should be removed from display and be replaced by the above posters:

COVID-19 posters 13th March 2020.jpg

Useful PDF posters & single pull banner suitable for printing:

NHS England update: Preparedness letter for community pharmacy (19th March)

NHS England has produced the second of a series of regular updates to community pharmacy regarding the emerging COVID-19 situation.

Further details of the letter can be found on the NHS website

Supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

By now, packs of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) should have been delivered to community pharmacies by DPD. If a pharmacy hasn’t received their pack, they  should call the National Supply Disruption line on 0800 915 9964 or email

PSNC Discussions with the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care

PSNC is working with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and NHS Improvement to provide as much support and guidance as possible to help community pharmacy teams contribute to some of the many challenges that could arise in an epidemic situation.

A number of new measures have been agreed to support community pharmacies as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In light of the developing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that this is already having on community pharmacies, PSNC has gained agreement from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on a number of measures to help contractors.

Please see the latest Chief Pharmaceutical Officer letter for full details (Preparedness letter for community pharmacy - 19th March). In summary, what has been agreed is:

  • Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS): 
    • The scheme will be postponed for three months and the period of delay will be kept under review. The released £18.75 million will be delivered to contractors for activity associated with the COVID-19 response.
  • Hepatitis C testing service: 
    • The introduction of this Advanced Service will be delayed from April 2020 for at least three months.
  • Pharmacy Integration Fund pilots: 
    • The three pilots announced last month (blood pressure testing; stop smoking support; and point of care testing) have been postponed until further notice.
  • Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS): 
    • Existing pilots for GP referrals to the service will remain in place, but will not be extended at this time. Patients being referred to the CPCS with upper respiratory tract symptoms, which are not believed to be COVID-19 cases, are now being told to phone the pharmacy and to speak to the pharmacist. Unless there is a clinical need for the patient to be seen in the pharmacy, the pharmacist can provide a consultation by telephone, as is provided for in the service specification. If the consultation is conducted in this manner, the pharmacy is eligible to claim the fee for provision of the service.
  • Community pharmacy patient questionnaire (CPPQ) and pharmacy clinical audits: 
    • NHSE&I will not take action against contractors who have not completed these by 31st March 2020.
  • Practice leaflets: 
    • NHSE&I will not take action against contractors who have not updated their practice leaflets during the period of the pandemic.
  • Public health campaigns: 
    • For the time being, these will only be focused on the national COVID-19 response.
  • Data Security and Protection Toolkit: 
    • The current submission deadline has been amended from 31st March 2020 to 30th September 2020.
  • Key workers: 
    • Confirmation of Government definition of 'Key workers' during the pandemic (whose children can still go to school, use pubic transport) that pharmacy staff are classed as key workers. (details in accordion box below)
  • National Antimicrobial Stewardship Clinical Audit:
  • Local pharmacy Enhanced services:
    • NHSE&I regional teams have been asked to review these as needed.

Further discussions.

This week PSNC will be undertaking more detailed discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) pressing for further support, including underlining the absolute necessity of protecting the services that pharmacies are providing at the moment. PSNC have told HM Government that, in addition to measures set out above, the sector needs:

  • A significant cash injection to ensure the resilience of the sector, supply chain and prevent closures;
  • New monies to fund the additional services being agreed;
  • Further reductions in services including pausing the New Medicine Service (NMS) and Medicines Use Reviews (MURs);
  • Funding for pharmacies that have to temporarily close;
  • Measures to support cashflow during the pandemic, e.g. due to increases in medicine prices; and
  • Indemnity cover for re-deployed pharmacy staff.
  • Resilience measures including flexibility of opening hours on a local basis to maintain medicines supply
  • Practical issues such as introduction of a locum code to RA (Smartcards), supplies of OTC medicines; COVID-19 testing for healthcare staff; supply of posters and other display materials for contractors; communications; protection for pharmacy staff; PNAs; opening hours; and periods of treatment.

Pharmacy staff included in Government list of key workers

The Government has announced that schools in England will be closed from the end of Friday 20th March for all but a limited number of children. Schools have been asked to continue to provide care for children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response and cannot safely be cared for at home.

Community pharmacy staff and those involved in the medicines supply chain, including the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector, are key workers critical to the Government’s COVID-19 response.  The Government has identified the following key workers in health and social care:

Health and Social Care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Key workers include all staff working in community pharmacies, pharmacy contractors’ head office staff, delivery drivers, volunteers, as well as those involved in the manufacturing, assembly and delivery of medicines for supply by community pharmacies, such as staff working for pharmaceutical wholesalers.

The definition of key workers has been  deliberately drafted broadly, so that all the people involved in the medicines and pharmacy supply chains who are critical to the supply of medicines, and the delivery of pharmacy services, to patients and the public – including pharmacists and pharmacy staff – are included.

PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes said:

“Whilst pharmacists have not been included by name, those of us in the community pharmacy sector know that it takes more than one person to keep a pharmacy running. The Government needed to ensure that all those important workers – pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pharmacy dispensers, pharmacy drivers, staff in wholesalers, distributers, etc. – were included and therefore settled on a wider definition than some may have been expecting.  It does however demonstrate the value of the dispensing and supply of medicines at a time of national health crisis – something that has arguably been undervalued by governments in the past – and that can only be a good thing for our sector.”

Coronavirus support - GPhC statements on important regulation updates

Two significant announcements were made by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) this week. In summary these included:

  • Stopping routine inspections of pharmacies and the production of inspection reports
  • Joint statement with the other health and social care regulatory bodies regarding flexibilty of the regulation standards during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Temporary Registration
  • Professional judgement to assess risk of delivery of self care covering:
    • keeping people safe
    • dealing with the absence of a responsible pharmacist for short periods (temporary supervision changes)

Details of the announcements are in the following documents:

Keep up-to-date with the PSNC hub page: