Over the past few months we have compiled answers to all the questions we are being asked in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. We have categorised these by theme, use the links below to navigate to each of the pages.
We review this questions and answers page regularly. Last reviewed 3 August 2020.
Are you still carrying out any inspections during the coronavirus pandemic?
Although we stopped routine inspections of pharmacies during the first part of the pandemic, our inspectors are now starting to complete re-inspections at six months for those pharmacies that have previously ‘not met’ the standards. Our inspectors will be visiting these pharmacies to check whether they have made the necessary improvements to meet the standards, and the inspector will produce a report for publication.
During this period of extended social distancing, we will also be continuing with our support calls to pharmacies to discuss their contingency planning and, as we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to act quickly on any information we receive which suggests a risk to patient safety by undertaking intelligence led inspections.
How can I contact my inspector for advice about coronavirus?
You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and your query will be passed onto an inspector or other relevant member of the team.
Supporting patients who are self-isolating
High numbers of our patients are having to self-isolate and so can’t collect their medicines. Can their neighbours or other volunteers pick up their medicines for them?
We recognise that during the coronavirus pandemic you may have to work differently, including in relation to getting medicines to your patients.
Please follow guidance from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and other pharmacy organisations in relation to arrangements for collection and delivery.
Please follow all advice from the government and NHS in your country; keep up-to-date with their resources.
Please contact the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, Community Pharmacy Scotland or Community Pharmacy Wales for more information and advice. They are liaising directly with government on issues such as protective equipment and procedures.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has also produced a range of relevant resources and guidance on their website.
You can also contact our inspectors for advice.
The responsible pharmacist has a duty to secure the safe and effective running of the pharmacy in relation to the retail sale and supply of all medicines.
We recognise there may be situations where the responsible pharmacist unavoidably has to leave the pharmacy at short notice part-way through the day, (if they are unwell and need to self-isolate, for example).
Where no locum cover can be secured at the pharmacy, and recognising the potential effects of the current pandemic, it would be in the patient’s best interest for medicines already dispensed to be supplied from the pharmacy rather than not supplied at all, even though this may not be in strict accordance with the law as normally understood.
Such an approach should only be adopted for a short time period, where other options have been exhausted. Apart from such exceptional circumstances, even in the current pandemic situation, arrangements must be made for a pharmacist to be at the pharmacy, including to undertake the responsible pharmacist role and supervise the sale and supply of prescription-only medicines and pharmacy-only medicines.
You can read more about our approach to regulation in challenging circumstances in our recent joint statement with the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.
Communicating with patients and public who don't speak English
Are there any resources available to help me communicate about COVID-19 with patients and the public visiting my pharmacy who do not speak English?
Doctors of the World has translated the latest NHS guidelines on COVID-19 into 44 languages.
You can translate the information on our website using the ReciteMe tool via the ‘Accessibility tools’ link on the top navigation bar.
Splitting packs of 100 paracetamol for sale
Can we split packs of 100 paracetamol for sale as a Pharmacy (P) medicine, as we cannot get supplies of packs of 16 and 32 paracetamol?
We understand that pharmacies may be experiencing difficulties in obtaining over the counter (OTC) pack sizes of paracetamol from wholesalers at this time.
It is possible for pharmacies to break down larger packs to prepare smaller packs to sell to people in this situation who need them. Pharmacy professionals should use their professional judgement to decide whether supplies are appropriate to be made, taking into account the circumstances.
It is recommended that any packs supplied consist of whole strips, either packs of 20 or 30. And where large packs of loose tablets are to be used, it is recommended that a pack size of up to a maximum of 32 is supplied.
These packs should not be placed on the open shelves for patients to select. Instead, place notices at the usual location to inform patients that supplies are available from the pharmacist or the pharmacy team at the pharmacy’s medicines counter.
These assembled smaller packs must be labelled with the following:
- the name, dosage form and strength of the product
- directions for use of the product
- precautions relating to the use of the product
- the date on which the product is sold or supplied
- the name and address of the person who sells or supplies the product (that is, the name and address details of the pharmacy, which would usually appear on a dispensing label)
So that people have the necessary safety information to use the medicines safely, include the following:
- the wording 'Store out of the reach and sight of children'
- the expiry date of the medicine (which is even more important when packs consist of loose tablets and not blister strips)
- if possible, the batch number and details of the manufacturer, (or that this information is recorded at the pharmacy)
- if possible, the capital letter “P” within a rectangle, with no other marks in the rectangle
For paracetamol products specifically
If the product contains paracetamol, make sure the following wording is included as well as the information above:
- 'Contains paracetamol' if the word 'paracetamol' doesn't appear on the outer and immediate packaging
- 'Do not take more medicine than the label tells you to. If you do not get better, talk to your doctor', next to either the directions for use or the recommended dosage
Unless the product containing paracetamol is wholly or mainly intended for children twelve years old or younger, include the words: 'Do not take anything else containing paracetamol while taking this medicine', and:
- if a package leaflet accompanying the product includes the words: 'Talk to a doctor at once if you take too much of this medicine even if you feel well. This is because too much paracetamol can cause delayed, serious liver damage', add the words: 'Talk to a doctor at once if you take too much of this medicine, even if you feel well'; or
- if no package leaflet accompanies the product or the package leaflet does not include those words, add the words 'Talk to a doctor at once if you take too much of this medicine, even if you feel well. This is because too much paracetamol can cause delayed, serious liver damage'.
If the product contains paracetamol and is wholly or mainly intended for children twelve years old or younger, include the words: 'Do not give anything else containing paracetamol while giving this medicine' and:
- if a package leaflet accompanying the product includes the words, 'Talk to a doctor at once if your child takes too much of this medicine even if they seem well. This is because too much paracetamol can cause delayed, serious liver damage', add the words: 'Talk to a doctor at once if your child takes too much of this medicine, even if they seem well' or
- if no package leaflet accompanies the product or the package leaflet does not include those words, the words “Talk to a doctor at once if your child takes too much of this medicine, even if they seem well. This is because too much paracetamol can cause delayed, serious liver damage'.
Ideally people should be provided with a package (patient information) leaflet with each supply.
It is important to provide safe, person-centred care, providing all the relevant information in a way that the person can understand.
We would also recommend that you contact your indemnity provider for further advice.
Locum rates during the pandemic
I have noticed that locums are charging higher rates than normal. Is this something you can investigate or that you have a view on?
We would remind all pharmacy professionals and pharmacy owners of their responsibilities to meet our standards at all times and to make the care of patients and the public their first concern.
We expect all professionals to act in accordance with professional standards and never more so than in these extraordinary times.
It is important that everyone plays their part in ensuring that pharmacies across England, Scotland and Wales can continue to operate safely so that patients and members of the public can get the medicines they need.
Training for temporary support staff
We have temporary support staff helping us in the pharmacy during the pandemic. Is there any training they can do to help them in their roles?
Buttercups training offer several online courses for different pharmacy support staff roles. Find out more in the COVID-19 section of their website. We recommend you also contact your current training provider for advice.