How do we continue to provide care across the health and care system? Here we offer some practical solutions and recommendations to the system to help alleviate the unprecedented pressure primary care is facing along with reducing the footfall to GP surgeries and the infection risk.
“It’s been like Easter and Christmas rolled into one. I’ve never seen anything like it. This is on a different scale”.
NAPC’s pharmacy lead and non-executive director Ash Soni OBE commenting on last weekend and the sheer number of people visiting his pharmacy in Streatham for prescriptions and in search of high demand products including hand sanitiser, paracetamol and toilet rolls. Faced with his limited paracetamol stock disappearing within hours of being placed on the shelves, from last Thursday, he restricted customers to one single packet. The wholesale price has since gone through the roof and he can’t get hold of any more paracetamol medicines specifically for children.
Dr Farzana Hussain, NAPC non-executive director and Pulse’s 2019 GP of the year who has a practice in Newham with 5,000 registered patients, says COVID-19 has brought about the need for change which has to happen today. She said: “Primary care is struggling to cope with demand, most primary care networks (PCNs) are embryonic and, therefore, not mature enough to have thought about broader collaboration. This is time for PCNs to embrace the resources of community pharmacy”.
NAPC is encouraging the following urgent measures to cope with some of the immediate challenges.
- GPs to switch to electronic repeat dispensing (eRD) as soon as possible and for more training to accelerate the roll out – reducing the number of patients needing to come into their practice who can collect their prescription straight from their local pharmacy. With eRD the prescriber can authorise and issue a batch of repeatable prescriptions for up to 12 months with just one digital signature. Patients do have to give their consent for repeat prescriptions to be sent to a nominated pharmacy of their choice but this can be by text message for speed (with patients opting out) or phased in with patients switched to eRD as the requests come in. In Newham, Dr Farzana Hussain’s practice processes 88% of repeat prescriptions this way, for more information click here.
- With the latest advice for people with symptoms in a household to stay at home for 14 days and the over 70s to be advised to stay indoors for 12 weeks from next weekend, pharmacies need urgent funding now to manage and increase home deliveries and as well as an alternative to a signature as a means of confirming receipt.
- Relaxation of the Pharmaceutical Services Regulations over splitting bulk packs of paracetamol to support pharmacies to relieve pressure on demand.
- Urgent additional money for the community pharmacy lead PCN role to give them capacity to work up business continuity plans with their local PCNs – to have the conversations and ensure support from everyone concerned to reach shared goals.
- Emergency funding to enable pharmacies to have shared IT enabling read and write access to patients’ records to improve the quality of healthcare and where pharmacists are independent prescribers to stop the need for patients to return to the GP surgery as the pharmacist can prescribe and amend prescriptions.
- Urgent funding to rapidly accelerate remote working for primary care staff.
NAPC is encouraging all members and professionals within primary care to share their learning and experience of coping with COVID-19, so best practice and work to date can be shared across the sector. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org with your examples or contact email@example.com