Rising to the challenge

22 October 2020

The last eight months have challenged us all, both personally and professionally, in ways we couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of 2020.

I want to thank all of you for how you have risen to these challenges you have faced so far this year. There is a huge appreciation from patients and the public, from governments and from the health service for everything that pharmacy teams in all sectors have done during the pandemic.

What has been particularly inspiring for us is to see the good practice that so many of you have identified and put in place in response to the pandemic. Our inspectors have identified over 130 examples of good practice during the COVID-19 pandemic which you can read on our knowledge hub. And we have shared some of the examples in this edition of Regulate.

Despite the huge demands you have faced, you’ve often gone above and beyond to provide care and support to your patients. One moving example of this was the response from community pharmacies when we asked them to offer a Safe Space in the pharmacy for people experiencing domestic abuse. This was part of a scheme organised by Hestia, the domestic abuse charity.

Over 1 in 4 pharmacies have already signed up and Hestia has advised us that Safe Spaces in pharmacies have already been used over 3,700 times. We’ve shared the story of a woman who was able to escape her abuser thanks to the Safe Space provided by her local independent pharmacy and who says the scheme has saved her life. Please do consider joining the scheme if you haven’t already.

Winter pressures

As we head toward winter, and with COVID-19 cases continuing to increase, we expect everyone in pharmacy will again face significant pressures. We know that many pharmacists in community pharmacies are already facing very high demand for flu vaccinations. This is a hugely important task to help protect public health this winter and we greatly appreciate the efforts being made by so many of you to help deliver the biggest flu vaccination programme ever.

It is vital however that pharmacy professionals are empowered to provide this service safely and effectively and there are enough staff to support this. In this article we emphasise the importance of making sure that our standards and guidance are met at all times, including when there is very high demand for services.

Learning lessons from the pandemic

In the next phase of the pandemic, our priority will be to continue to do what we can to support you to provide safe and effective care to your patients and communities.

We also want to make sure we learn the lessons from the pandemic. We’ve already identified lots of positive examples as well as areas where we want to improve and strengthen how we work.

We have had to make some very difficult decisions, including to postpone the registration assessment, and we appreciate that some people have faced further challenges as a result. We are working as quickly as we can to reschedule the registration assessment and will have further news on this in the coming weeks.

When the pandemic first started, we put many of the activities we were planning for 2020 on hold so we could focus on supporting pharmacy professionals and the wider pharmacy sector.

We are now moving forward with some of these key areas of work. These include finalising new standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists and consulting on a new strategy for how we manage fitness to practise concerns about pharmacy professionals. Please look out for more details and take part in the consultation if you can.

Thank you again for the part are playing to support patients and the public during this very challenging year. We are grateful to you all for your commitment to your patients and your resilience as we enter the next phase of the pandemic. We will do what we can, working with others, to support you.