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Pharmacists in Scotland have been urged to do what they can to ensure that pharmacies stay open for seven days per week during the COVID-19 crisis.
Joe FitzPatrick, minister for public health, sport and wellbeing for the Scottish government, told delegates at a launch event for the new NHS Pharmacy First service that community pharmacies had an important role to play in the management of COVID-19.
The disease “presents a real test of our systems and processes for managing a rapidly evolving situation”, he told guests from the pharmacy world, adding that “your community pharmacy expertise will be at the front line”.
FitzPatrick said hospital beds would have to be freed up for the care of patients admitted with COVID-19, meaning a greater requirement for care to be delivered in the community.
As “an important part of primary care”, the minister asked the community pharmacy sector to “work out what more you can do to open for longer, to ensure seven-day opening in your area, to promote the care you can offer”.
Also speaking at the dinner, which was held at the Signet Library, Edinburgh, on 11 March 2020, Martin Green, chair of the Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) board, said the new Pharmacy First service will “change the dynamics of how patients access NHS services” in Scotland.
Describing Pharmacy First as a “world first for pharmacy”, Green said the service will place Scotland’s community pharmacy network “at the gateway to the NHS, as a truly integrated part of primary care”.
Under Pharmacy First, pharmacists in Scotland will be reimbursed for advice and referrals as well as for medicines dispensing. As a consequence, Green emphasised that “so much of the advice that we give on a daily basis will be captured”.
He went on to say that the development of community pharmacy services in Scotland “doesn’t stop with Pharmacy First”, adding that CPS was now working with the Scottish government on further clinical areas and treatment options to “further broaden the service … we have ambitious joint plans around common clinical conditions, and are looking to develop a career framework for community pharmacy: including having an independent prescriber in every pharmacy across Scotland”.
FitzPatrick also said of Pharmacy First that “the key message now is that for minor ailments and common conditions, everyone should be encouraged to visit their local pharmacy first”.
He told guests: “You have myself and the cabinet secretary’s [Jeane Freeman] full support to make this one of community pharmacy’s greatest achievements”.
Richard Lyle, Scottish National Party MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, who attended the launch, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that he had tabled a question asking the government what steps it would now take to direct patients to the Pharmacy First service.