News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 24 June 2021

Media Summary

Study Reinforces Community Pharmacists Play a ‘Key Clinical Role’ in COVID-19 Vaccination Process
Pharmacy Times, Jill Murphy, 23 June 2021

Pharmacy Times reports that community pharmacists could positively contribute to the future of COVID-19 vaccination programmes through continuing to be active in vaccination campaigns.

As pharmacists continue to provide essential services during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for decision makers, community pharmacy staff, and consumers to endorse and support the ongoing public health role for community pharmacy, according to a study published in the BMJ.

The study aimed to understand how community pharmacy can most effectively deliver the necessary services with a focus on vaccination during the pandemic and onward.

The findings of the study supported a clear role for community pharmacies in public health and looked at the accessible, convenient locations of community pharmacy. The findings suggested that community pharmacy should be particularly involved in administering boosters against new variants such as the Delta variant.

Rising medicines shortages drive up GP workload and risk for patients
GP Online, Nick Bostock, 23 June 2021

GP Online reports that growing medicines shortages have forced more than four in five GPs to prescribe second choice drugs over the past year.

GPs reported that problems with out-of-stock medicines were increasing and in addition to driving up practice workload had contributed to rising levels of abuse from patients towards general practice staff.

Of 583 GPs who responded to questions on medicines shortages in a survey by GPonline, 83.5% said shortages had forced them to prescribe second choice drugs within the past year.

More than half of GPs said problems with medicines shortages had worsened over the past year and some said medicines shortages were a ‘huge time waster’ for practices. GPs said the problem had been becoming worse over several years, many blaming Brexit or suggesting the pandemic had contributed.

Shortages of HRT drugs were among the most common items mentioned as being unavailable in the survey, along with contraceptives and blood pressure medication.

Government guidance published earlier this year acknowledged that “medicines supply issues have become an increasingly common problem.”

Legislation that took effect in January 2019 requires suppliers to report on availability of medicines and anticipated shortages. Government guidance states: “These requirements aimed to address the ongoing concerns about medicine supply issues and to ensure that DHSC have relevant information at the earliest point possible to help manage supply shortages and discontinuations and mitigate any potential impacts on patients.”

Well launches click-and-collect prescription service in 570 pharmacies
Chemist and Druggist, Stefania Sarrubba, 22 June 2021

The Chemist and Druggist reports that on 21st June 2021, Well Pharmacy announced the launch of a new click-and-collect service that allows patients to pick up their prescriptions from more than 570 of its branches in England.

Using the Well app, patients can choose to have their prescriptions delivered for free or to collect them from a local Well Pharmacy.

Well Director of IT and Digital Claire O’Connell said: “Just last month we saw a patient opt for ‘Click and Collect’. [Their medicine] was ready within 45-minutes, ensuring that there were no delays and treatment could be commenced immediately.”

Currently, the click-and-collect option is currently only available via the iPhone and Android app and not all prescriptions are eligible for the service yet.

On the Well app if the patient selects ‘Click and Collect’, they can then choose which local Well Pharmacy they would like to collect their prescription from and once confirmed, the prescription is transferred to the community pharmacy team to dispense locally.

Well Pharmacy is not currently planning on extending this service to its other branches in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

 

 Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

 

Full Coverage

Well launches click-and-collect prescription service in 570 pharmacies
Chemist and Druggist, Stefania Sarrubba, 22 June 2021

Well Pharmacy has launched a new click-and-collect service that allows patients to pick up their prescriptions from more than 570 of its branches in England.

The service, which the multiple announced yesterday (June 21), allows patients using the Well app to choose whether to have their prescriptions delivered for free or collect them from a local Well Pharmacy.

Well director of IT and digital Claire O’Connell said that following a four-month trial, Well “saw brilliant uptake through our trial pharmacies, especially for acute prescriptions”.

“Just last month we saw a patient opt for ‘Click and Collect’. [Their medicine] was ready within 45-minutes, ensuring that there were no delays and treatment could be commenced immediately,” Ms O’Connell added.

How the click-and-collect service works

The multiple believes this new service will suit patients with different lifestyles, providing them with greater flexibility.

However, the click-and-collect option is currently only available via the iPhone and Android app. Patients using the website will not be able to order their prescription for collection at the moment, but Well is “working on a solution for this”, it said on its website.

While “the vast majority” of prescriptions are eligible for the service, some are not and more medications will be added over the coming months, the multiple specified.

A spokesperson for Well told C+D today (June 22) that “the click-and-collect option is offered following payment or confirming you are exempt from paying for your prescription”.

“The app takes you to a screen [that shows] delivery options. If the patient selects ‘Click and Collect’, they can then choose which local Well Pharmacy they would like to collect their prescription from,” the spokesperson added.

“Once confirmed, we transfer the prescription to the community pharmacy team to dispense locally. Once dispensed and scanned onto the shelf, the patient is alerted that their prescription is ready for collection via a notification within the app,” they said.

Only available in England
Well Pharmacy CEO Seb Hobbs described the launch of the service as “a major milestone”.

“We are passionate about giving our customers choice and offering true convenience,” Mr Hobbs said.

Well Pharmacy is not planning on extending this service to its other branches in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at present.

“As the prescriptions are transferred electronically from our online pharmacy, we can only offer this service in England due to current restrictions,” the spokesperson said.

Lloydspharmacy added a prescription collection function to its Echo app in November last year, allowing patients to collect their items from around 1,000 branches in England.

Rising medicines shortages drive up GP workload and risk for patients
GP Online, Nick Bostock, 23 June 2021

Growing medicines shortages have forced more than four in five GPs to prescribe second choice drugs over the past year – driving up workload and sometimes placing patients at risk, a GPonline poll shows.

GPs reported that problems with out of stock medicines were increasing and in addition to driving up practice workload had contributed to rising levels of abuse from patients towards general practice staff.

Of 583 GPs who responded to questions on medicines shortages in a survey by GPonline, 83.5% said shortages had forced them to prescribe second choice drugs within the past year.

More than half of GPs said problems with medicines shortages had worsened over the past year. Four in five said the problem had increased GP workload and more than two thirds said it had inconvenienced patients – at times leading to angry exchanges with practice staff.

Medicines shortages

A total of 14% said patients had been adversely affected. One respondent said a patient had ‘nearly died’, while others reported control of long-term conditions being undermined, increased risk of adverse events or patients receiving inferior care. GPs reported that in some cases alternatives were simply not available, delaying or undermining care.

Findings from the poll come after GPonline reported earlier this year on a spike in drug shortages towards the end of 2020. More than 100 products have been listed as out of stock on a drug shortages tracker maintained by our sister website MIMS since early 2020 – with the total peaking at 142 items out of stock in November.

GPs responding to the latest survey said medicines shortages were a ‘huge time waster’ for practices. Several respondents reported that the problem had been becoming worse over several years – with many blaming Brexit and others saying the pandemic appeared to have contributed.

One GP wrote: ‘Leaving aside the panic over-ordering in March 2020 and to a lesser extent at the start of the second wave, which obviously resulted in shortages, I have experienced more requests from pharmacies for substitutions in the last year than ever before.’

Abuse of practice staff

GPs responding to the poll reported that the frequency of medicines shortages had contributed to rising abuse from patients towards staff in primary care.

One GP wrote: ‘Patients get cross when we cannot give them the same meds. Pharmacies often no help as they don’t tell us what we can get. Patients demand an immediate solution.’

GPs reported patients blaming their GP practice when medicines were not available. One GP wrote: ‘This has been going on for the past five years and results in duplication of work for the GP and angry frustrated patients who create more work for us.’

Shortages of HRT drugs were among the most common items mentioned as being unavailable in the survey, along with contraceptives and blood pressure medication.

Patient care

GPs highlighted concerns that the shortages limited options for them to treat patients. One GP responding to the survey said: ‘The medicines shortages are becoming chronic and they are limiting therapeutic options, significantly impacting patients.’

Another wrote: ‘Limits prescribing options in some areas – especially HRT. Time consuming and frustrating when you don’t know whether the drug you want to prescribe is back in stock or not – often easier to just avoid using these drugs altogether.’

Another GP said they had been forced to alter patients’ management plans to work around available medication – while others reported delays to care or harm to patients forced to change medicines.

Government guidance published earlier this year acknowledged that ‘medicines supply issues have become an increasingly common problem’.

Legislation that took effect in January 2019 requires suppliers to report on availability of medicines and anticipated shortages. The government guidance said: ‘These requirements aimed to address the ongoing concerns about medicine supply issues and to ensure that DHSC have relevant information at the earliest point possible to help manage supply shortages and discontinuations and mitigate any potential impacts on patients.’

Study Reinforces Community Pharmacists Play a ‘Key Clinical Role’ in COVID-19 Vaccination Process
Pharmacy Times, Jill Murphy, 23 June 2021

The research team discovered that community pharmacists, as a skilled clinical workforce, could positively contribute to the future of COVID-19 vaccination programs by continuing to be active in COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

As pharmacists continue to provide essential services during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for decision makers, community pharmacy staff, and consumers to endorse and support the ongoing public health role for community pharmacy, according to a study published in BMJ.1

The research team discovered that community pharmacists, as a skilled clinical workforce, could positively contribute to the future of COVID-19 vaccination programs by continuing to be active in COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.2

The objective of the study was to understand how community pharmacy can most effectively deliver the necessary services with a focus on vaccination during the pandemic and onward. Using academic databases, preprint services, and grey literature, the researchers screened for documents meeting inclusion criteria. Data were extracted from 103 documents to develop and refine a program theory using a realist logic of analysis.1

The analysis created 13 context-mechanism-outcome configurations that explained when, why, and how community pharmacy can support public health vaccination campaigns, maintain essential services during pandemics, and capitalize on opportunities for expanded, sustainable public health service roles.1

Although the results were organized according to decision makers, community pharmacy teams, and community pharmacy users as key actors, some clear findings of the study include:

  • Supporting a clear role for community pharmacies in public health.
  • Clarifying pharmacists’ legal and professional liabilities.
  • Involving pharmacy teams in service specification design.
  • Providing suitable guidance, acceptable compensation, and resources.
  • Leveraging accessible, convenient locations of community pharmacy.1
  • “We need to use community pharmacy to a much greater extent for COVID-19 vaccination, particularly for boosters against new variants such as the Delta (Indian) variant. The current model (for example, the large hubs) may not be sustainable in the longer term, particularly if annual COVID-19 vaccination is required,” said study lead Ian Maidment, PhD, in a press release. “Our work found some key ways to make this happen. The easy access and local convenience of high street pharmacies makes them an ideal location for vaccinating at-risk populations.”2

REFERENCES

1. Maidment I, Young E, MacPhee M, et al. Rapid realist review of the role of community pharmacy in the public health response to COVID-19. BMJ Open. 2021;11:e050043. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-050043

2. Community pharmacy can play a ‘key clinical role’ in delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations. EurekAlert! Published June 16, 2021. Accessed June 17, 2021. https://ekaprdweb01.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-06/au-cpc061521.php

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 24 June 2021

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