HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 12 March 2021

Media Summary

There was no media coverage today.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Changes to import controls due to be implemented on 1 April and 1 July 2021
Michael Gove, Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, 11 March

The UK’s departure from the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union on 31 December last year created considerable change for business and citizens, including the introduction of new processes and requirements. But with the first changes coming into force on 1 January 2021, the generalised disruption that many anticipated did not affect supply chains to the levels expected.However, the Government has recognised the scale and significance of the challenges businesses have been facing in adjusting to the new requirements, all while dealing with the impacts of COVID. With the disruption caused by COVID lasting longer and being more extensive than anticipated, the Government has reviewed its timetable for the phased introduction of controls on imports from the EU into Great Britain, giving businesses more time to prepare.

In a statement made yesterday, Michael Gove announced a clear revised timetable for the introduction of controls, as follows:

  • Pre-notification requirements for Products of Animal Origin (POAO), certain animal by-products (ABP), and High Risk Food Not Of Animal Origin (HRFNAO) will not be required until 1 October 2021. Export Health Certificate requirements for POAO and certain ABP will come into force on the same date.
  • Customs import declarations will still be required, but the option to use the deferred declaration scheme, including submitting supplementary declarations up to six months after the goods have been imported, has been extended to 1 January 2022.
  • Safety and Security Declarations for imports will not be required until 1 January 2022.
  • Physical SPS checks for POAO, certain ABP, and HRFNAO will not be required until 1 January 2022. At that point they will take place at Border Control Posts.
  • Physical SPS checks on high risk plants will take place at Border Control Posts, rather than at the place of destination as now, from 1 January 2022.
  • Pre-notification requirements and documentary checks, including phytosanitary certificates will be required for low risk plants and plant products, and will be introduced from 1 January 2022.
  • From March 2022, checks at Border Control Posts will take place on live animals and low risk plants and plant products.

Traders moving controlled goods into Great Britain will continue to be ineligible for the deferred customs declaration approach. They will therefore be required to complete a full customs declaration when the goods enter Great Britain.

You can read the full transcript of Michael Gove’s announcement here.

COVID-19: Community Pharmacies
House of Commons Debate, 11 March

Yesterday, Sir Graham Brady chaired a debate on the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on community pharmacies. Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy, introduced the debate by highlighting the huge contribution made by community pharmacists during the pandemic, and the support and recognition expressed by Members of Parliament.

She drew particular attention to the financial impact of the pandemic on community pharmacists, and the consequences on their personal wellbeing, making a plea that the Government and the NHS fully appreciate their contribution and ensure that they be recompensed adequately for it. She also took this opportunity to highlight the larger role that pharmacists can and should play in primary care.

In line with the observations made by Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Peter Dowd MP outlined four actions which he recommended the Government take to address the situation:

  1. Review the response from pharmacies during the pandemic and re-evaluate a clear vision of what is needed from these undervalued and vital frontline healthcare workers;
  2. Enable pharmacists to do more, by providing additional resources for training and support to the sector;
  3. Reassess the value of pharmacies, to be conducted by finance teams in the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS; and
  4. Write off the advance payments as an immediate way of providing relief. Additionally, re-evaluate the financial implications of asking pharmacies to pay back the £370 million advance.

Holly Lynch MP backed the proposals, adding that pharmacies had their budgets cut back in 2016, with a reduction from £2.8 billion in 2015-16 to £2.59 billion in 2017-18. She said that austere financial measures had left many pharmacies ill-prepared for the additional requirements posed by the pandemic, flagging a 20% rise in demand for medicines and a 35% increase in required prescriptions.

Taiwo Owatemi MP went on to highlight the important role that these pharmacists play at the heart of communities, referencing her own background as a qualified pharmacist. She also advocated for a review of the sector’s funding, shedding light on the key link it provides between individuals and the wider NHS, and the vital role it can play in plans to address growing health inequalities.

Bob Seely MP noted that independent pharmacies do not gain the discounts given to big multiples, which are often part of a single wholesale and retail chain, and asked the Minister for Health to ensure that independent pharmacies are paid the same and are allowed to make the same profit margins on prescriptions and other services.

You can read a full transcript of the debate here.

Full Coverage

There was no media coverage today.

Media Summary

Treasury’s COVID-19 loan demand ‘putting pharmacies in England at risk’
The Guardian, Denis Campbell, 08 March

The Guardian reports that hundreds of pharmacies in England could be forced to close, with the Treasury insisting they pay back much of the £370m allocated last year in emergency loans to help them stay open during the pandemic.

Ministers have been warned that most closures will occur in poorer areas and will hamper both the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and the annual winter flu jab campaign.

“The Government’s decision to demand repayment of the COVID-19 funding given to pharmacies will put many at risk of closure,” said Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. “Sadly, most of these closures are likely to hit hardest the areas of the country where pharmacies are most needed,” he added.

Dukes wrote to the Chancellor ahead of his Budget speech last week and asked for the £370m to be written off. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said discussions with the pharmacy sector were ongoing.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Westminster Hall to hold a general debate on community pharmacies and the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak
Backbench Business Committee, 05 March

On Thursday 11th March, MPs will hold a general debate on community pharmacies and the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak in Westminster Hall.

Prior to the debate, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has urged MPs to contribute, and is encouraging Local Pharmaceutical Committees and contractors to write to their MPs asking them to join the debate.

Once made available, a full transcript of the debate will be provided.

Scottish Parliament – Written Answer, 04 March

Richard Leonard (Central Scotland, Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government whether all staff who work within community pharmacies will be prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccination.

Jeane Freeman (SNP, Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley): Some key workers, such as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, are included in the top priority groups, and already eligible for a vaccine, but other pharmacy staff including drivers and medical home care delivery drivers who deliver medication and equipment to patient homes are not included in the priority list.

The decision is to not prioritise other pharmacy staff for the following reasons:

  • Criticality of service is not an indication for priority vaccination because clinical risk is the overriding concern. This is influenced most greatly by age, not occupation.
  • Currently there is no sectoral prioritisation of any workers other than frontline health and social care workers.
  • Individual staff will be called forward for vaccination according to their position on the priority list, if they are eligible within the JCVI Cohorts.

Our prioritisation decisions have been, and will continue to be, informed and guided by the independent expert advice from the JCVI.

 

Full Coverage

Treasury’s COVID-19 loan demand ‘putting pharmacies in England at risk’
The Guardian, Denis Campbell, 08 March

Hundreds of pharmacies in England could be forced to close because the Treasury is demanding repayment of emergency loans it gave them to help stay open during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers have been warned that most closures will occur in poorer areas and will hamper both the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and the annual winter flu jab campaign.

Pharmacy leaders claim that thousands of England’s 11,500 pharmacies are at risk because the Treasury is insisting that they pay back much of the £370m it gave them last year.

“The government’s decision to demand repayment of the COVID-19 funding given to pharmacies will put many at risk of closure,” said Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

“Sadly most of these closures are likely to hit hardest the areas of the country where pharmacies are most needed. We hope Rishi Sunak will intervene urgently,” he added.

Dukes wrote to the chancellor before his budget last week and asked for the £370m to be written off. However, his request appears to have been rebuffed.

In his letter to Sunak, Dukes said: “Last year, you said the NHS would get whatever resources it needs to deal with the pandemic. However, we understand from Treasury officials that this is not the case for NHS pharmacies.” The chancellor did not address the issue in his statement last Wednesday.

Pharmacies have used the money to make their premises safe and secure to stay open during the pandemic, with screens, personal protective equipment and cleaning to protect staff.

The Health Minister, Jo Churchill, lauded the key role pharmacies play in dispensing medicines and health advice when she announced the first tranche of £300m funding for pharmacies in April. “Every day community pharmacies carry out critical work to protect the health of the public and support the wider NHS. This is even more important now as we face this unprecedented time,” she said.

“We hugely value the role of the community pharmacy, which is why we are backing them with £300m of advanced funding to support them as we continue to assess the full additional impact of coronavirus on community pharmacy,” she added.

Ministers made further loans of £50m and £30m, bringing the total to £370m.

Scores of pharmacies are administering COVID vaccines, and during 2019-20 pharmacy teams delivered 1.5m of the 14.5m flu jabs administered in the UK.

The Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said discussions with the pharmacy sector were ongoing. They said: “Community pharmacies make a vital contribution to the NHS, and, throughout the pandemic, they have gone above and beyond to serve their communities, including in the vaccination rollout.

“To help them tackle COVID-19 we made £370m available for pharmacies in advance payments, on top of a deal committing nearly £13bn to the sector by 2024. Further funding, for costs incurred during the pandemic, is being discussed with the sector.”

Media Summary

COVID-19: AstraZeneca boss says EU vaccine supply ‘glitches’ are because it signed deal 3 months after UK
Sky News, Editorial Team, 27 January

AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive has said the UK’s target of vaccinating the top four priority groups against COVID-19 by mid-February will be possible, Sky News reports.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Pascal Soriot said: “By March, the UK will have vaccinated maybe 28 to 30 million people. The Prime Minister has a goal to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, and they’re already at 6.5 million. So, they will get there,” he said.

Admitting  there had been “teething problems” in various regions, Mr Soriot said that “glitches” in the supply of Coronavirus vaccines to Europe are due to it signing its contract three months after the UK.” He told the newspaper: “The UK contract was signed three months before the European vaccine deal, so with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced. As for Europe, we are three months behind in fixing those glitches.”

This story was also reported in BBC News.

 

UK access to Pfizer jab threatened as EU imposes new controls on COVID vaccine exports
Sky News, Ian Collier & Sharon Marris, 26 January

Sky News reports that the European Union has suggested it may impose strict controls on the exporting of Coronavirus vaccines made in the bloc. The move could impact the UK’s supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is made in Belgium.

European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that the EU “will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights”, adding that an “export transparency mechanism” will be installed “as soon as possible”.

“In the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries,” she said.

The UK government said it remained confident that supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is largely made in Oxfordshire and Staffordshire, would allow it to meet its target of vaccinating the most vulnerable by the middle of February.

 

COVID-19: North West vaccines to be cut by a third in February
BBC News, Editorial Team, 26 January

BBC News reports that COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the North West of England will be cut by a third in February. An NHS spokeswoman said the weekly supply will be reduced from 310,000 to 200,000 by the second week of the month for Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside and South Cumbria.

NHS England’s North West directorate said in a statement that the region was being “fully supplied with all the vaccinations needed to offer vaccination to everyone across the region aged 70 and above, as well as clinically extremely vulnerable patients, and health and social care staff.”

The Department of Health has said targeted deliveries were being made to areas with more people left to vaccinate in the priority categories, proportionate to their at-risk population.

A spokesman added that the department was “in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers and remain on track to offer first vaccinations to the top four priority groups by mid-February”.

 

Target date for care home vaccinations missed
Health Service Journal, Jasmine Rapson, 26 January

Health Service Journal reports that the NHS has missed its first deadline for giving an initial dose of the vaccine to all older people’s care home residents and staff, and is now working to do so by the end of the month.

An NHS England letter on 13 January said it was “expecting all [primary care] local vaccination services to administer the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to care home residents and staff by Sunday 24th January.”

It is understood the 24 January target has not been met, and NHSE and the government has now said it is 31 January.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons, Written Answers, 26 January

  • Julian Sturdy (Conservative, York Outer): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what plans his Department has to utilise community pharmacies in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Dr Julian Lewis (Conservative, New Forest East): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, for what reason pharmacies have not been used to administer COVID-19 vaccinations; and if he will make it his policy to utilise the pharmacy network for that purpose.

Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative, Statford-on-Avon): As from 26 January 2021, 65 community pharmacies have started to offer the COVID-19 vaccination service, with more pharmacies joining the service over the coming weeks.

Some pharmacists and members of their team have also been working with general practitioners (GPs) to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country.

NHS England and NHS Improvement are working with all the national pharmacy organisations on plans to ensure that community pharmacies are used to optimal effect in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, starting with the sites that can do this at scale.

There is now a list of vaccine sites on the NHS website regularly updated as they come on stream, so you can check what services are available in your constituency including pharmacy sites. This is available here.

 

Committees hear from Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England
Health and Social Care Committee & Science and Technology Committee, 26 January

Yesterday the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee heard from Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, as part of their joint inquiry on ‘Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt.’

Sir Simon Stevens noted that he had been reassured by ministers that it is unlikely that the EU would block the exports of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the EU. He also took this opportunity to stress the need for the UK to improve its vaccine manufacturing capacity in the future.

A transcript for the inquiry will be included here once it is made available.

 

Correspondence from Madeleine Alessandri, Permanent Secretary, Northern Ireland Office
Public Accounts Committee, 26 January

The Public Accounts Committee has published a letter sent by Madeleine Alessandri, Permanent Secretary for the Northern Ireland Office, to Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.

The letter notes that the the UK Government commitment to a New Deal for Northern Ireland was made in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement of January 2020 and reiterated in the Northern Ireland Command Paper in May 2020. The funding announced will help mitigate the impacts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, boost economic growth, increase Northern Ireland’s competitiveness and invest in infrastructure. The letter notes that the funding will, amongst other aims, contribute to the following:

  • Support initiatives to promote Northern Ireland’s goods and services to markets in GB, Ireland and the rest of the world;
  • Help ensure resilience in medicine supply chains; and
  • Improve the flow of goods to and from Great Britain and across Northern Ireland, boosting access to opportunities.

You can read the letter in full here.

 

Full Coverage

COVID-19: AstraZeneca boss says EU vaccine supply ‘glitches’ are because it signed deal 3 months after UK
Sky News, Editorial Team, 27 January

AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive has said the UK’s target of vaccinating the top four priority groups against COVID-19 by mid-February will be possible.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Pascal Soriot said: “By March, the UK will have vaccinated maybe 28 to 30 million people.

“The Prime Minister has a goal to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February, and they’re already at 6.5 million. So they will get there.”

Mr Soriot hit back at the EU by saying that “glitches” in the supply of coronavirus vaccines to the bloc are due to it signing its contract three months after the UK.

He admitted there had been “teething problems” in various regions, including Europe and the UK.

He told the newspaper: “But the UK contract was signed three months before the European vaccine deal, so with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced.

“As for Europe, we are three months behind in fixing those glitches.”

His words come amid growing European anger towards the pharmaceutical company, which is accused of failing to deliver the promised number of doses of the vaccine it developed with Oxford University.

The EU has said all companies producing COVID vaccines in the EU would have to provide “early notification” when exporting to third countries.

This move could in turn affect the UK’s supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is made in Belgium, but both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said they were confident supply would not be interrupted.

Mr Soriot said his company’s global capacity is about 100 million vaccine doses a month, adding that most vaccines have a capacity of 100 million doses a year.

“Of course, we are ramping up production and Europe is getting 17% of this global production in February for a population that is 5% of the world population…We are in the ramp-up phase and basically it will improve, but it takes time.”

Mr Soriot also blamed “really bad luck”, adding: “Actually, there’s nothing mysterious about it.

“But look, the sites that have the lowest productivity in the network are the sites that are supplying Europe and quite honestly, I mean, we’re not doing it on purpose.

“I’m European, I have Europe at heart… Many people in the management are European. So we want to treat Europe as best we can.

“You know, we do this at no profit, remember? We didn’t go into this to try and make money or whatever. We would like to treat Europe as good as possible. I actually do believe we treated Europe fairly.”

AstraZeneca said last week it would cut supplies to the EU in the first quarter of 2021, citing production problems.

A senior EU official said at the time this meant a 60% reduction to 31 million doses.

In August last year, the bloc agreed to purchase 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for €750m, with an option for an additional 100 million.

Britain secured 100 million doses in May 2020, costing £84m.

In a separate interview with Die Welt, Mr Soriot said the volumes agreed with the EU were not binding.

“It’s not a commitment we have to Europe, it’s a best effort,” he said.

“The reason why we said that is because Europe wanted to be supplied more or less at the same time as the UK, even though the contract was signed three months later.”

Mr Soriot added that AstraZeneca is working with Oxford University on a vaccine that will target the South African variant of COVID-19.

He told the newspaper: “Having said that, we’re also working on a vaccine with Oxford University that will target the variant.”

 

UK access to Pfizer jab threatened as EU imposes new controls on COVID vaccine exports
Sky News, Ian Collier & Sharon Marris, 26 January

The European Union has threatened to impose strict controls on the exporting of coronavirus vaccines made in the bloc.

The move could impact the UK’s supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is made in Belgium.

It comes amid growing European anger towards pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which is accused of failing to deliver the promised number of doses of the vaccine it developed with Oxford University.

European health commissioner Stella Kyriakides warned that the EU “will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights”, adding that an “export transparency mechanism” will be installed “as soon as possible”.

“In the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries,” she said.

The UK government said it remained confident that supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is largely made in Oxfordshire and Staffordshire, would allow it to meet its target of vaccinating the most vulnerable by the middle of February.

A government spokeswoman said: “We remain in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers. Our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries will fully support offering the first dose to all four priority groups by 15 February.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi echoed this, telling Sky News he was “confident” supplies of the Pfizer vaccine would continue.

“Pfizer have made sure that they have always delivered for us, they will continue to do so,” he said.

“They have made a very important announcement on the equitable supply of the whole world, including the European Union, and I’m sure they will deliver for the European Union, the United Kingdom and for the rest of the world.

“We have got 367 million vaccines that we have ordered from seven different suppliers, so I’m confident we will meet our target and continue to vaccinate the whole of the adult population by the autumn.”

Earlier on Monday, Ms Kyriakides had criticised AstraZeneca’s decision to slow supplies of its vaccine as “unacceptable”.

The pharmaceutical company, announced on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets and, according to reports, that meant a cut of 60% to 31 million doses – just weeks after Pfizer also announced supply delays.

AstraZeneca is believed to have received an upfront payment of £298m when the 27-nation bloc sealed a supply deal with the company in August for at least 300 million doses.

Under advance purchase deals sealed during the pandemic, the EU makes down-payments to companies to secure doses, with the money expected to be mostly used to expand production capacity.

The vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the EU on 29 January, with first deliveries expected from 15 February.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said the company was doing everything it could to bring its COVID-19 vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed the company, which has its headquarters in the UK, faces wider supply problems, with Australia and Thailand affected.

The UK is particularly reliant on the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab and it has been key to the country’s vaccine rollout so far, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that supply is “tight.”

 

COVID-19: North West vaccines to be cut by a third in February
BBC News, Editorial Team, 26 January

COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the North West of England will be cut by a third in February, the NHS has confirmed.

An NHS spokeswoman said the weekly supply will be reduced from 310,000 to 200,000 by the second week of the month for Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire, Merseyside and South Cumbria.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) said the move was due to national shortages and to allow other areas to catch up.

The Department of Health said the vaccination programme was “on track”.

It was previously reported that the North East and Yorkshire would see vaccine supplies halved to address variations in regional vaccination rates.

NHS England’s North West directorate said in a statement that the region was being “fully supplied with all the vaccinations needed to offer vaccination to everyone across the region aged 70 and above, as well as clinically extremely vulnerable patients, and health and social care staff”.

The Department of Health told the HSJ targeted deliveries were being made to areas with more people left to vaccinate in the priority categories, proportionate to their at-risk population.

A spokesman added that the department was “in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers and remain on track to offer first vaccinations to the top four priority groups by mid-February”.

The NHS spokeswoman said about 900,000 people have now been vaccinated in the North West.

 

Target date for care home vaccinations missed
Health Service Journal, Jasmine Rapson, 26 January

The NHS has missed its first deadline for giving an initial dose of vaccine to all older people’s care home residents and staff, and is now working to do so by the end of the month.

An NHS England letter on 13 January said it was “expecting all [primary care] local vaccination services to administer the first dose of the covid-19 vaccine to care home residents and staff… by the end of this week wherever possible and, at the latest, by the end of next week (Sunday 24th January)”.

The letter set an additional financial payment to primary care networks for care home vaccinations by 24 January, and a smaller payment for those completed by 31 January.

It is understood the 24 January target has not been met, and NHSE and the government has now said it is 31 January.

A spokesman told HSJ that 24 January had been an “expectation” and the final deadline had “always been the end of the month”.

The representative body for independent care homes, Care England, told HSJ there had been a “number of challenges” with the vaccine rollout which contributed to the delays.

These include confusion over whether GPs should vaccinate in care homes where there has been a COVID outbreak – at least two cases – and the 12-week delay between doses.

A spokesman said care home staff were told to attend hospital vaccination hubs for their first dose, and that coordinating this had contributed to delays. It is hoped staff will receive their second dose in the care homes to maximise uptake, according to Care England.

A spokesman said: “The vaccine rollout to care homes has been a massive feat and we pay tribute to adult social care workers and their colleagues in the NHS for enabling this.

“There are of course challenges, not least the time lag between doses. In addition we have heard that there is some confusion as to whether GPs can vaccinate care homes with an ‘outbreak’; guidance has been issued around this and we hope that it will no longer be a hold-up to the efficient rollout of the vaccine.

“Anything that can be done to make the vaccine more available to residents and staff at all homes, including those for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, is to be welcomed”.

The NHS England spokesman said: “Just a few weeks after the Oxford vaccine – which allows teams to more easily vaccinate in care homes – became available, the majority of care home residents have already received their jab.

“Vaccinating care home residents is a priority for local GP-led vaccinating teams, who are on track to meet the government’s goal of doing so by the end of this month.”

Media Summary

Plans for ‘wider involvement’ of pharmacies in vaccinations

Pharmacy Magazine, Editorial Staff, 11 January

Pharmacy Magazine reports that plans are underway to look at how more pharmacies can be involved in the Covid-19 vaccination programme. Community pharmacy bodies have sat down with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England & Improvement and there was general agreement “on the benefits of using more community pharmacies in the national vaccination effort.”

Boris Johnson recently said around 200 pharmacies have been designated as vaccination sites and may begin operations from this week, but concerns have been raised in recent days that the wider pharmacy network is not being utilised.

PSNC chief Simon Dukes said: “While it is positive that some pharmacies have already been selected by NHSE&I as local vaccination sites, we want to see the sector playing a far bigger role than this so we are pleased to have a commitment from all sides to work together on a plan. The pharmacy organisations are already working up proposals for this.”

 

Exclusive: Ministers keeping UK vaccine supply secret to avoid ‘diversion’ to other nations

Health Service Journal, Alastair McLellan, 11 January

Health Service Journal reports that in an NHS webinar held on Sunday night, NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said the supply of COVID-19 vaccines would be “constrained” by the agreed delivery schedule and batch authorisation process during the five-week period the NHS has been given to inoculate the most vulnerable groups.

He stressed that it was vital for the NHS to preserve supplies by only giving one dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine, rather than the two originally recommended. Any appointments already made to deliver second doses should be cancelled, the webinar was told — a firm message to some practices and hospitals which have continued giving second doses despite guidance being issued last month to allow for 12 weeks between vaccine doses.

HSJ also understands senior government officials and NHS figures are worried being too transparent on vaccine supply would affect negotiations with manufacturers, who are facing significant pressure from other countries to supply their vaccination efforts.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan
Department of Health and Social Care, 11 January

The UK Government has published its COVID-19 vaccination plan, which sets out to deliver at least two million vaccinations a week. Tens of millions of people will be immunised by the spring at over 2,700 vaccination sites across the UK, the government has announced as part of comprehensive plans to rapidly scale up the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The UK COVID-19 vaccines delivery plan sets out how the government will work with the NHS, devolved administrations, local councils and the armed forces to deliver the largest vaccination programme in British history. By the end of January, everyone in England will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site or, for a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccine will be brought to them via mobile teams. There will also be capacity to deliver at least 2 million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January and all residents and staff in over 10,000 care homes across the country will be offered a vaccine by the end of the month.

The Department of Health and Social Care has published the latest statistics on the number of people in the UK who have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. NHS England will publish a more detailed breakdown every week, beginning Thursday. The number in the UK who received the first dose between 08 December and 10 January is 2,286,572.

PHE has responsibility for surveillance of the vaccination programme and has developed a surveillance strategy encompassing monitoring of vaccine coverage, symptomatic disease, asymptomatic infection, and seroprevalence. Working with the NHS and academic centres, these detailed plans will allow PHE to document whether the vaccine interrupts transmission, how the vaccine works in people with underlying conditions, how long protection lasts, and whether the changes in the circulating virus affect the protection received from the vaccine.

In response to the vaccine plan, NHS Providers said that the target to offer 2m vaccinations a week by the end of January was an ambitious target. They welcomed the roll out of additional hospital, local and vaccination sites this week.

The ABPI called for continued focus throughout the significant challenge, adding that companies were working “around the clock” to deliver these vaccines on schedule.

You can read the vaccines delivery plan here.

 

Covid-19: Planning For a Vaccine Part 1: Preparations for Potential Covid-19 Vaccines
Public Accounts Committee Hearing, 11 January

During a session of the Public Accounts Committee on “Covid-19: Planning for a Vaccine Part 1: Preparations for Potential Covid-19 Vaccines”, MPs heard from:

  • Sarah Munby, Permanent Secretary, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy;
  • Emily Lawson, Chief Commercial Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement;
  • Sir Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary, Department of Health and Social Care;
  • Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England;
  • Michael Brodie, Chief Executive, Public Health England;
  • Nick Elliott, Former Director General and SRO, Vaccine Taskforce, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; and
  • Kate Bingham, Chair, Vaccine Taskforce, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

 

Security

On the security of the supply chain, Sir Simon Stevens said he had received reasonable assurances. He noted a trade-off between transparency versus the opportunity this presented to malign actors, and informed witnesses that this was being discussed with police and security services.

Dr Lawson said the entire supply chain had been looked at by the vaccine taskforce and the deployment programme. She added that some information about transportation had not been published for security reasons, and that checks were being carried out on those who volunteered to administer the vaccine.

Risk

When questioned about domestic manufacturing capacities, Ms Munby said manufacturing was mainly the responsibility of those supplying the vaccine and, in most cases, the companies were large and had secure processes.

The Committee heard that the biggest challenge remained around the Pfizer vaccine, with it needing to be kept at such a low temperature, while other vaccines did not present such logistical risks.

Wastage

Dr Lawson said 97.3% of vaccine deliveries had been on time and in full. Some adaptations had been made to communications chains to improve delivery and supply information, she noted.

Delivery

Ms Bingham said timing of supply contracts and deliveries had been set out with each supplier. While she assured that suppliers were getting their share of the vaccine, she outlined that the challenge was doing the scale-up.

Mr Elliott added that detailed supply schedules were in place up until the end of February and said he was confident that supply would not be constrained, claiming there would be enough to vaccinate 100% of the cohorts.

 

Delays to supply

On batch testing holding up supply, Ms Blake asked if this was the case and if more should be done to improve capacity at this stage. Responding, Ms Bingham said the MHRA assessed the clinical efficacy and safety, along with ensuring every dose delivered was consistent and approved. These batch test experiments could not be done until the final version of the vaccine had been received. Ms Bingham stated that there were certain things that could not be compressed.

Ms Hillier asked if there had been any effect on supply chain caused by Brexit, to which Ms Munby replied there had not yet been any, although there were multiple-layer contingency plans in place.

 

Devolved nations

Procurement for the devolved nations was mentioned, and the comittee asked if the figures could be provided on how many vaccines had been distributed and delivered.

In reply, Sir Wormald said he did not have those numbers available at the moment but added that he was happy to speak to his devolved colleagues to provide this. Adding to this, Ms Munby said the doses had been split by population across the devolved nations and Sir Stevens said the Scottish government had been publishing figures on how many vaccines had been administered.

A transcript for the hearing can be found here.

 

House of Commons, Written Question, 11 January

Alex Norris (Labour, Nottingham North): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the Government plans to adapt the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine programme to allow more local communities to receive the vaccine from their community pharmacy.

 

Full Coverage

Plans for ‘wider involvement’ of pharmacies in vaccinations

Pharmacy Magazine, Editorial Staff, 11 January

Plans are underway to look at how more pharmacies can be involved in the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the PSNC has said, adding that it hoped to share details “very soon”.

The negotiator said yesterday (Sunday January 10) that community pharmacy bodies have sat down with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England & Improvement and that there was general agreement “on the benefits of using more community pharmacies in the national vaccination effort”.

Boris Johnson has said around 200 pharmacies have been designated as vaccination sites and may begin operations from today, but concerns have been raised in recent days that the wider pharmacy network is not being utilised.

However, according to the PSNC work is now underway to determine what is feasible for the sector and how pharmacies “can best be used to complement the existing network of larger vaccination sites,” including timings and the number of pharmacies likely to be involved.

The Government’s new Covid-19 vaccination delivery plan, published today, contains a reference to “large and small community pharmacy sites” offering vaccination services at a local level, along with general practice and primary care networks. Pharmacy Network News has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for more information.

“Community pharmacies are integral parts of local communities and will be accessible and approachable places from which to deliver vaccination,” says the document.

PSNC chief Simon Dukes said: “Last week saw renewed interest in the role that community pharmacies can play in the COVID-19 vaccination programme following PSNC’s national media push, and we were pleased to hear Ministers as well as Boris Johnson confirming that there will be a role for the sector to play.

“While it is positive that some pharmacies have already been selected by NHSE&I as local vaccination sites, we want to see the sector playing a far bigger role than this so we are pleased to have a commitment from all sides to work together on a plan. The pharmacy organisations are already working up proposals for this.

“PSNC’s ambition is for many thousands of pharmacies to be used to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is logistically more suited to community settings. We know that patients will value this; that community pharmacies can do this; and that this would make a significant contribution to the national vaccination efforts.

“We hope to be able to share plans for this with contractors very soon so that they can make the necessary preparations and be ready to get going as soon as there is enough vaccine supply to enable smaller community vaccination sites like pharmacies to be stood up.”

 

Exclusive: Ministers keeping UK vaccine supply secret to avoid ‘diversion’ to other nations

Health Service Journal, Alastair McLellan, 11 January

The UK must not shout ‘from the rooftops’ about the COVID-19 vaccine supplies it has secured as this could potentially lead to manufacturers diverting supplies away from the country, NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam told NHS leaders last night.

The comments were made on an “urgent webinar” organised at short notice on Sunday evening.

As well as Sir Simon and Professor Van-Tam, briefings were given by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, NHSE Medical Director Stephen Powis, Primary Care Director Nikki Kanani and Vaccination Programme lead Emily Lawson.

All clinical commissioning group chairs and accountable officers were invited to the webinar, along with senior NHSE regional directors.

The webinar also heard vaccination delivery needed to be accelerated in London, while the North East and Yorkshire region was performing the best.

Sir Simon said the supply of covid vaccines would be “constrained” by the agreed delivery schedule and batch authorisation process during the five-week period the NHS has been given to inoculate the most vulnerable groups, according to sources present.

This meant it was vital the NHS preserved supplies by only giving one dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine, rather than the two originally recommended. Any appointments already made to deliver second doses should be cancelled, the webinar was told — a firm message to some practices and hospitals which have continued giving second doses despite guidance being issued last month to allow for 12 weeks between vaccine doses.

However, Sir Simon also explained “politicians were keeping away from the rooftops on numbers” related to the supply of vaccines as this could potentially put pressure on pharmaceutical manufacturers and therefore, as a knock-on effect, mean they potentially decide to limit the UK’s supply even further.

Professor Van-Tam backed up Sir Simon’s assertion, warning “diversion” of vaccine supply by manufacturers was “always a risk”, HSJ understands.

HSJ also understands senior government and NHS figures are worried being too transparent on vaccine supply would affect negotiations with manufacturers, who are facing significant pressure from other countries to supply their vaccination efforts. They fear revealing the UK’s hand on vaccine supply would “put a target” on supply numbers which others would then ask for.

The latest information on the number of daily inoculations delivered across England will be published later today, with the first regional information due later this week.

Asked which region was doing the best in providing the covid vaccines, Sir Simon identified the North East and Yorkshire area. He added some other areas need “chivvying”, noting there needed to be an “acceleration across London in the next week”.

However, he also pointed out the programme was at a relatively early stage.

The NHS is opening its first seven vaccination centres, to vaccinate people aged 80 and health and care staff, today. The “mass” sites are mostly run by NHS trusts, separately from the hundreds of sites coordinated by primary care.

The seven sites are:

  • Excel Centre in London (London);
  • Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West);
  • Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East);
  • Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands);
  • Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England);
  • Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West); and
  • The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne (North East and Yorkshire).

NHSE also announced this morning: “Hundreds more GP-led and hospital services are also due to open this week along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total to around 1,200.”

Media and Political Bulletin

28 July 2020

Media Summary

Independents’ hub & spoke facility to go live in 2022

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Network News, 24 July 2020

P3 Pharmacy reports that a new facility aimed at giving independent pharmacies access to hub and spoke technology is expected to commence operations in early 2022, Pharmacy Network News (PNN) has learned.

HubRx founder Daniel Lee, who set up distance dispenser Pharmacy2U, is part of the executive team behind the new £8m dispensing facility. He told PNN that planning and development is currently underway ahead of the hub and spoke legislation changes expected to come into force in 2021.

“We are currently appointing a logistics contractor and expect the facility to be live Q1 2022,” he said.

This was also reported in The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

Full Coverage

Independents’ hub & spoke facility to go live in 2022

P3 Pharmacy, Pharmacy Network News, 24 July 2020

A new facility aimed at giving independent pharmacies access to hub and spoke technology is expected to commence operations in early 2022, Pharmacy Network News has learned.

HubRx founder Daniel Lee, who set up the controversial distance dispenser Pharmacy2U in the nineties, is part of the executive team behind the new £8m dispensing facility, which will be based in Yorkshire. He told PNN that planning and development is currently underway ahead of the hub and spoke legislation changes expected to come into force in 2021.

“We are currently appointing a logistics contractor and expect the facility to be live Q1 2022,” he said.

When asked about the fee model, Mr Lee said HubRx would use a “transparent cost plus model, with a flat service fee… [we] will be recharging the actual cost price of the medicines and the service fee which we are currently developing”.

It was put to Mr Lee that the NPA had carried out research last year that concluded there was little evidence of benefit from hub and spoke models used around the world.

He replied that his team was “creating a new hub and spoke model specifically for independent pharmacies” and that the technology had “improved significantly” over the last few years.

“We are confident from previous experience of increased safety and efficiency.”

“[Contractor and former NPA board member] Mike Hewitson who led the task group looking into Hub and Spoke has joined as a non-executive director and we are working to support a new industry standard which will fully address some of the previous concerns.”

When asked whether he had encountered any wariness from the independent pharmacy sector given his background with Pharmacy2U, Mr Lee replied: “Independent pharmacy… is part of my heritage having worked in my family’s independent pharmacy business before founding Pharmacy2U… it’s really important for the industry to have a strong and thriving independent sector.”

He added: “We know that at the end of this contract period pharmacy will be paid less for dispensing so pharmacies need to be more efficient and create capacity for new services.

“The new CPCF provides for the use of new technology and I would ask independents to at least engage in the art of the possible, because if they remain focused on dispensing and purchase profits at the expense of NHS and private clinical services, they risk being destroyed by market forces.”

This was also reported in The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Media and Political Bulletin

16 July 2020

Media Summary

Jo Churchill reassures pharmacies on funding to avoid Covid-enforced closures

Pharmacy Business, Radhakrishna NS, 14 July 2020

Pharmacy Business reports that pharmacy Minister Jo Churchill has reassured MPs that the government would invest in community pharmacies and avoid widespread closures following the Covid-19 pandemic.

During a House of Commons debate on Monday (July 13), the pharmacy minister drew attention to a pledge made earlier to the National Pharmacy Association (NPA)’s virtual conference by the Health Secretary that large-scale closures would “not happen on my watch”.

The minister reminded MPs that the government was currently in negotiations with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee on pharmacy funding and also emphasised that pharmacies will be key to scaling up the flu vaccination programme this coming autumn and winter.

Parliamentary Coverage

Secretary of State speech to NPA Conference

NPA Conference, Matt Hancock, 13 July 2020

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock gave a keynote speech at the NPA Conference 2020. Matt talked about the immense health challenges COVID-19 poses and the important work that community pharmacy has done as part of the NHS response. He discussed some of the early learnings from the crisis, the changes in primary care and discuss what the NHS needs from the community pharmacy sector moving forward.

The full speech can be found here.

Full Coverage

Jo Churchill reassures pharmacies on funding to avoid Covid-enforced closures

Pharmacy Business, Radhakrishna NS, 14 July 2020

Pharmacy Minister Jo Churchill has reassured MPs that the government would invest in community pharmacies and avoid widespread closures following the Covid-19 pandemic.

During a House of Commons debate on Monday (July 13), the pharmacy minister drew attention to a pledge made earlier to the National Pharmacy Association (NPA)’s virtual conference by the Health Secretary that large-scale closures would “not happen on my watch”.

Thanking community pharmacy teams for their work during the pandemic, she said, “They’ve stepped up, innovated and shown great resilience.”

The debate was opened by backbench Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, Bob Seely, who warned that it would be a “national shame” if pharmacies were forced to close having stayed open to serve the public during the Covid-19 crisis.

Funding to cover the additional costs incurred by pharmacies, such as extra staffing, needs to be more than “a sticking plaster”, he said.

Conservative Paul Bristow and Labour’s Holly Walker-Lynch also spoke warmly about the support pharmacies in their constituencies have given from the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.

NPA chief executive, Mark Lyonette, said: “It’s good that public commitments have been made both to our members and to MPs that pharmacies will be supported to stay open and expand services. We believe that Ministers are sincere in their stated ambition to make pharmacies the first port of call for healthcare, but the sector urgently needs further investment to underpin viability, change and improvement.”

The minister reminded MPs that the government was currently in negotiations with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee on pharmacy funding and also emphasised that pharmacies will be key to scaling up the flu vaccination programme this coming autumn and winter.

Media and Political Bulletin

09 July 2020

Media Summary

PSNC kicks off formal talks with government on Covid-19 funding for pharmacy

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 08 July 2020

Pharmacy Business reports that the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has just announced that it has begun discussions with government on what it called “high-level community pharmacy costs and funding throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Following several months of discussions with the NHS and the Department of Health, PSNC made a business case in April – based on data from other pharmacy bodies – for additional funding, outside of the £2.592bn global sum agreed for the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework – to cover the Covid-19 related costs incurred by contractors and margin shortfalls.

PSNC warned that the wider sector would still need to collate data on additional costs on a monthly basis to help its negotiations with the government.

Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons – Written Answer, 07 July 2020

Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a transitional funding package for community pharmacists (a) before and (b) during the covid-19 outbreak.

Jo Churchill: In July 2019, we published our landmark five-year deal, ‘Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework’. This deal made £2.592 billion per year available to community pharmacy from 2019-20 to 2023-24. It was agreed in line with the Cabinet Office’s cross-Government collective agreement process.

The Department has had regular conversations with HM Treasury during the COVID-19 period about funding for community pharmacies. In addition to the unprecedented support package put in place for all businesses, further discussions are ongoing and we have agreed additional funding for a medicines delivery service for shielded patients and bank holiday openings.

Full Coverage

PSNC kicks off formal talks with government on Covid-19 funding for pharmacy

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 08 July 2020

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has just announced that it has begun discussions with government on what it called “high-level community pharmacy costs and funding throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, the news comes with a warning: the negotiation process “could last many more weeks”.

“Contractors have already been waiting many months for news on Covid-19 funding and it is frustrating that today’s news only begins the formal negotiations process, rather than giving them the answers they need,” Chief Executive Simon Dukes said on Wednesday (July 8).

However, now that the pharmacy negotiator has got the go-ahead from government to begin the formal negotiations, he assured contractors that PSNC would negotiate for the best outcome after assessing “HM Treasury’s views on pharmacy funding”.

Following several months of discussions with the NHS and the Department of Health, PSNC made a business case in April – based on data from other pharmacy bodies – for additional funding, outside of the £2.592bn global sum agreed for the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework – to cover the Covid-19 related costs incurred by contractors and margin shortfalls.

It said DHSC and NHSE&I recognise the ‘significant effort’ made by the community pharmacy sector in supplying advice and medicines during the early stages of the pandemic and there is an acceptance that additional costs were incurred by the sector.

PSNC warned that the wider sector would still need to collate data on additional costs on a monthly basis to help its negotiations with the government.

Media and Political Bulletin

06 July 2020

Media Summary

NHS should pay pharmacies on wholesalers’ payment terms, inquiry says

Chemist+Druggist, Valeria Fiore, 03 July 2020

Chemist+Druggist reports that, according to a report by the Health and Sport Committee, the NHS in Scotland should reimburse community pharmacies on the “same payment terms” established by the wholesalers.

Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) told the Committee that “wholesalers’ payment terms [are] 30 days, but the NHS [does not] reimburse for two-three months”.

CPS director of operations Matt Barclay said, “We need a robust solution that suits all parties and will continue to work with our stakeholder partners to make supply of these medicines seamless and less complex than is currently the case.”

A spokesperson for NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) said on 03 July that NSS is currently “undertaking a full redevelopment of the data capture validation and pricing system used to calculate the payments to community pharmacies”.

Pharmacies to receive £1,250 per month under NHS Pharmacy First scheme

Pharmaceutical Journal, Corrinne Burns, 03 July 2020

The Pharmaceutical Journal reports that pharmacies offering the NHS ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme in Scotland will receive base payments of £1,250 per month from 1 October 2020, the Scottish government has confirmed.

From the start of the scheme until 30 September 2020, pharmacies will continue to receive the “transitionary payment put in place from 1 April 2020”.

Adam Osprey, policy and development pharmacist at CPS, said: “We welcome the agreed funding and commitment to the service that the Scottish government has shown — and indeed we have matched it to demonstrate our commitment and belief in the service.”

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today.

Full Coverage

NHS should pay pharmacies on wholesalers’ payment terms, inquiry says

Chemist+Druggist, Valeria Fiore, 03 July 2020

The NHS in Scotland should reimburse community pharmacies on the “same payment terms” established by the wholesalers, according to a Health and Sport Committee’s report.

The recommendation came after the committee heard of the financial risk pharmacies face when procuring high-cost medicines.

Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) had told the committee that “wholesalers’ payment terms [are] 30 days, but the NHS [does not] reimburse for two-three months”, the MSPs wrote in the report on the supply and demand for medicines.

Existing systems to apply for advance funding were described by CPS director of operations Matt Barclay as “clunky”, according to the report, which was published earlier this week (June 30).

Mr Barclay told C+D yesterday (July 2) that Scottish pharmacies can apply to individual health boards for advanced funding “for extraordinary costs related to NHS service provision”, including the purchasing of high-cost medicines.

However, this system is “bureaucratic for the contractor and the health board and adds complexity to cashflow”, he said.

“We need a robust solution that suits all parties and will continue to work with our stakeholder partners to make supply of these medicines seamless and less complex than is currently the case,” Mr Barclay added.

“Full redevelopment”

A spokesperson for NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) told C+D today (July 3) that NSS is currently “undertaking a full redevelopment of the data capture validation and pricing system used to calculate the payments to community pharmacies”.

This includes making “better use of electronic prescribing and dispensing claims”, they said.

In time, this could allow for “the elimination of paper prescriptions from the payment processes which could facilitate a shortening of the…re-imbursement…of payments to contractors”, they said.

The NSS “cannot endorse any recommendation at present but may do so as work develops in response to this report”, the spokesperson added.

The recommendation to bring NHS Scotland reimbursement for community pharmacy in line with wholesaler payment terms was one of 129 recommendations put forward by the committee in the report.

Sharing information

The MSPs also heard about the time pharmacists spend sourcing medicines and suggested that this role should be shifted to pharmacy technicians. This would “improve efficiency” and free up pharmacists’ time to share “clinical expertise with patients”, they said.

“We recommend the procurement of medicines become part of the formalised training for pharmacy technicians, including how to manage other staff to assist,” they said in the report.

The Scottish government should, “as a matter of urgency, formalise the systems for sharing information between prescribers and dispensers”, the MSPs said.

This suggestion was put forward as the committee heard from the chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Scottish pharmacy board, Jonathan Burton, that the “recording of discussions [with patients is] down to the professional judgement of the pharmacist”.

MSPs explained that they were asking the Scottish government to inform them “what aspects of data collection are covered in the new pharmacy contract”.

They also recommended that the government “formalise the systems for sharing information between prescribers and dispensers”. This should be done “as a matter of urgency” and in “collaboration with GPs and pharmacists”, they added.

A Scottish parliament press release accompanying the release of the report referred to “the dismal failure of NHS Scotland” to “collect and share data”.

Pharmacies to receive £1,250 per month under NHS Pharmacy First scheme

Pharmaceutical Journal, Corrinne Burns, 03 July 2020

Pharmacies will also be paid per activity under the scheme.

Pharmacies offering the NHS ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme in Scotland will receive base payments of £1,250 per month from 1 October 2020, the Scottish government has confirmed.

Under the terms of the service, set out in a circular published by the Scottish government on 1 July 2020, the pharmacies will also be paid per activity, with equal weight given to advice, referrals and medicines supplied after a Pharmacy First consultation.

The scheme, which replaces the Minor Ailment Service (MAS), will launch across Scotland on 29 July 2020, after having been postponed from its original start date of 22 April 2020 to allow pharmacy teams to focus on managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the start of the scheme until 30 September 2020, pharmacies will continue to receive the “transitionary payment put in place from 1 April 2020”, the circular said.

However, from 1 October 2020, contractors will receive a monthly base payment of £1,250 as well as a share of the “activity pool”: a figure that will vary according to how many activities the pharmacy undertakes.

The circular adds that the activity recorded during the transitionary period “will be used to gauge the precise parameters of the remuneration arrangements from 1 October 2020”.

In an FAQ published on its website, Communtiy Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) said it was “critical that all consultation activity is recorded so that the pharmacy team’s hard work is recognised properly”.

Both CPS and the Scottish government have contributed funding to the service.

Adam Osprey, policy and development pharmacist at CPS, said: “We welcome the agreed funding and commitment to the service that the Scottish government has shown — and indeed we have matched it to demonstrate our commitment and belief in the service.”

“The distribution method is designed to be adaptable and we have always been clear that it would change over time to more closely reflect individual activity levels.”

The Scottish government has also published an approved list of products available through NHS Pharmacy First, which was drawn up after discussions with stakeholders — including all 14 NHS health boards and CPS.

The products that may be supplied fall under 11 groups based on categories in the British National Formulary.

However, in the list document, the government said: “Wherever possible, providing lifestyle advice and support to manage minor conditions should be the preferred course of action, with treatment supplied and referrals made only where necessary.”

To help pharmacies transition to the new service, products supplied from local MAS formularies will be reimbursed until 1 October 2020 — even if those products are not on the approved list.

In a video update published on 2 July 2020, Harry McQuillan, chief executive of CPS, said that the list “is a working document”.

“Once we’ve got some usage and some feedback, it can be changed after a period where we’ve managed to gather the evidence of what needs to change — if anything,” he said.

Media and Political Bulletin

03 July 2020

Media Summary

Landmark £13.25m funding package for community pharmacy in Northern Ireland

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 02 July 2020

Pharmacy Business reports that Northern Ireland’s health minister has announced a landmark £13.25 million funding package for community pharmacy.

The latest funding is being made in addition to a confirmed recurrent financial envelope of £112.4m for 2020/21. This adds to a previous investment of £7.5m for the period April to June 2020 towards meeting the cost of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gerrard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, said: “The investment of significant funding will provide a platform now for the service to build on the immensely important services that people could see being provided during the Covid response and it will enable community pharmacy to play a transformative role going forward in the post Covid-era.”

Parliamentary Coverage

Medicines and Medical Devices Bill: Briefing for Lords Stages, 02 July 2020

The Medicines and Medical Devices Bill would provide the Government with new delegated powers to update or amend the UK’s regulatory framework for medical devices and for human and veterinary medicines, with much of the current UK regulatory framework based on EU regulations and directives.

It would also allow a new information system to be introduced covering data on medical devices and would consolidate and expand enforcement provisions.

No opposition amendments were made to the bill during its House of Commons stages. However, MPs agreed some government amendments at committee stage, and a new clause proposed by the Government was added at report stage. The House of Commons agreed each of these without a vote. The second reading in the House of Lords is yet to be scheduled.

Access the Briefing for Lords Stages here.

Full Coverage

Landmark £13.25m funding package for community pharmacy in Northern Ireland

Pharmacy Business, Pri Mandav, 02 July 2020

Northern Ireland’s health minister has announced a landmark £13.25 million funding package for community pharmacy.

“What we saw through the Covid-19 pandemic was community pharmacy really stepping up and supporting us also across the health and social care system,” Robin Swann said yesterday (July 1).

He added that the funding boost would provide “a firm foundation that will enable community pharmacy to play a full part in the future of our health and social care system.”

The latest funding is being made in addition to a confirmed recurrent financial envelope of £112.4m for 2020/21. This adds to a previous investment of £7.5m for the period April to June 2020 towards meeting the cost of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reacting to the minister’s announcement, Gerrard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, said: “We in Community Pharmacy NI and the complete community pharmacy network welcome the minister’s announcement this morning.

“The investment of significant funding will provide a platform now for the service to build on the immensely important services that people could see being provided during the Covid response and it will enable community pharmacy to play a transformative role going forward in the post Covid-era.

“These have been extremely challenging times for all of us in Northern Ireland, none more so than the community pharmacy network.”

Greene also praised community pharmacy teams for “the sterling and extremely professional and dedicated work that they have put in” over the period of the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding will ensure that, in addition to the core dispensing service, community pharmacies will provide extra services from July 2020 to meet the needs of patients during the pandemic period, which will include:

  • An emergency supply service, started in phase one of the pandemic, will continue.
  • Services for smoking cessation and opiate substitution therapy, suspended during the initial phases of the emergency response, will re-commence.
  • An enhanced on-call palliative care service will be provided and a new service developed for care homes.
  • A ‘Pharmacy first’ service will provide a consultation with a pharmacist for access to advice and treatment for common conditions, avoiding the need for the public to attend GP/OOH/ED services.
  • Pharmacies will provide targeted advice and signposting for mental and physical health promotion. A medicines delivery services will be developed for vulnerable groups.

Calling it ‘a very positive step forward,’ Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Northern Ireland, Cathy Harrison, said: “Every day our community pharmacy staff work with the utmost professionalism on the frontline of the HSC, providing accessible services for the public. This agreement shows that we are backing our community pharmacy teams as we continue to work through the uncertainty of the coming months and towards a more positive future.”

“I feel that Community pharmacists are now being treated with the same respect and valued in the same way as Hospital & Practice Based Pharmacists,” Eoghan O’Brien told Pharmacy Business on Thursday, July 2.

He said the collaboration between the Dept of Health, the Health and Social Care Board, Community Pharmacy NI and health minister Robin Swann was very encouraging as it “gives community pharmacists the confidence and resources they need to bring further improvements in physical and mental health and wellbeing to the public we are so proud to serve.”

“It is really good for the entire profession, and I feel we can really progress from here,” O’Brien added.

Media and Political Bulletin

29 June 2020

Media Summary

Community pharmacy’s ‘nightmare’ in trying to source PPE

Chemist+Druggist, Emma Wilkinson, 26 June 2020

Chemist-Druggist reflects on the issues faced by pharmacists during the pandemic with regards to obtaining PPE.

The article notes that back on 29 April, the HDA warned that mask stocks for pharmacy staff had almost completely run out, prompting PSNC CEO Simon Dukes to say that the situation was “putting the safety of community pharmacy staff at risk, which is quite simply unacceptable”.

Parliamentary Coverage

Medicine and Medical Devices Bill, 24 June 2020

An Impact Assessment from the Department of Health and Social Care has been published on the Medicine and Medical Devices Bill.

Explanatory Notes have been published to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill which can be found here.

Full Coverage

Community pharmacy’s ‘nightmare’ in trying to source PPE

Chemist+Druggist, Emma Wilkinson, 26 June 2020

Pharmacy owners have had to “beg, borrow and steal” personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their teams from COVID-19, say contractors.

At least six community pharmacy professionals have died so far from COVID-19. Pharmacies have had to stay open to the public during the pandemic to ensure patients get their medicines, so contractors want to protect them as best they can. But for many businesses, the government’s response on PPE in pharmacies has been inadequate.

The latest advice on PPE from Public Health England (PHE) for pharmacy staff, which was published in April, is to wear a fluid-resistant surgical mask if working in an area with possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19 where they are unable to maintain two metres of social distancing. If you can stay two metres apart then no PPE is needed, according to the guidance.

But every patient that pharmacy team members see may have COVID-19, and maintaining two metres of distance all the time is impossible. At least some of those working in the pharmacy need PPE but managing to get hold of it has been a problem.

After an initial delivery in March of packs from PHE containing 50 masks, 200 aprons and 100 pairs of gloves, pharmacists have been left to source their own supplies. NHS England says it it thinks it is “unlikely” that pharmacy teams would use the entire pack.

“There are few occasions where it is expected that staff will be required to wear PPE in the pharmacy setting,” NHS England says in the COVID-19 standard operating procedure for community pharmacy.

The government made PPE available for pharmacists to purchase separately from the national stockpile through wholesalers. But at the end of April, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) raised concerns about the inability of pharmacists to maintain social distancing or get their hands on PPE.

These fears were realised on April 29, when wholesaler representative the Healthcare Distribution Association warned that mask stocks for pharmacy staff had almost completely run out. The announcement prompted Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee CEO Simon Dukes to say that the situation was “putting the safety of community pharmacy staff at risk, which is quite simply unacceptable”.

For those who cannot get PPE from wholesalers, there is, in theory, a national helpline to call. The national supply disruption response system should be able to support delivery of emergency PPE, according to a Department of Health and Social Care (DH) plan published in April.

“Staff are terrified”

Yet the experience of Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire committee member Ashley Cohen shows help is not always forthcoming from the service. With 35 members of staff across his two Pharm-Assist branches in Leeds, he was using at least 70 masks a day in April.

He called the helpline, but they told him to contact his wholesaler, only for him be told it didn’t have any PPE in stock, he says. He repeated this process over and over. “This helpline was doing everything but helping,” he says. “Over two weeks I sent 40 emails and had multiple phone calls – I wouldn’t let it lie.”

Mr Cohen procured a couple of weeks of PPE stock for his staff, which gave them some breathing room. He has been forced to “beg, borrow, and steal” from everywhere he could think of – including putting out calls on social media.

Many local businesses and people across the UK have been making visors to give to pharmacies, highlighting the struggle to acquire them from wholesalers. Pharm-Assist received PPE for every member of staff from Mr Cohen’s children’s school. It has been using more PPE than NHS England recommended throughout the pandemic, he adds.

Despite having PPE, a one-in-one-out policy and screens, some of his colleagues became unwell. “At one point we had six staff off with COVID-19 symptoms. One was severely ill, with her husband in intensive care. My staff have seen people go into intensive care and they are terrified,” he adds.

“Sourcing PPE has been a nightmare”

Amish Patel, superintendent pharmacist at Hodgson Pharmacy (pictured below) in Longfield, Kent says the PPE guidance has not matched the reality of requirements of working in a pharmacy. “It is impossible to stand two metres away from customers in our environment,” he says. After the first delivery of PPE from Public Health England, his business was left to fend for themselves.

“I can’t get hold of [PPE] at all and prices are extortionate. Sourcing it has been a nightmare. I complained the to MP and council and they arranged for PPE to be delivered – we got 200 masks, a roll of aprons, two boxes of gloves and some goggles,” says Mr Patel.

Like Mr Cohen, he also managed to source some for free from a local school, which he helped send to pharmacies across Kent. The pharmacy has also bought additional uniforms for staff so they can wash them when they get home.

But he points out his staff use the equipment quickly, getting through 25 masks a week. He questions whether the government advice on PPE usage is sufficient. Out of his eight members of staff, at one point three were isolating simultaneously with COVID-19 symptoms.

Mask donations

Local communities have stepped forward to protect pharmacies with more than visors. In April, a Warwickshire local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) funded a pack of 200 masks and a bottle of hand sanitiser for every pharmacy.

In Hereford and Worcestershire, the LPC has donated towards a local college’s production of visors. Manisha Sharma, LPC strategic partnership lead across Coventry, Warwickshire and Herefordshire and Worcester says: “Some pharmacies were really appreciative – when I took them round, they had nothing and couldn’t even get masks. It does show the importance of collaboration.”

“Extortionate costs”

Hemant Patel, secretary of North East London LPC, says the PPE situation has added to contractors’ concerns. “Pharmacists are being asked to get PPE from wholesalers, but the costs are pretty high, if not extortionate. And pharmacists are unclear at the moment about how they will be able to claim for costs.”

In Preston, Lancashire, one contractor had no luck with calling the national helpline so stopped trying. “We have a big team of more than 20 so we’re getting through 40 masks a day,” says Michael Ball, owner of Broadway Pharmacy (pictured below). “We have had to self-fund much of it and it is [costing] in the region of 80-85p a mask.”

Mr Ball has just about managed to source enough PPE so far but it has taken a lot of time and effort. “I want to look after myself and my staff by purchasing it, but I hope that down the line it is recognised [by the government].”

Despite putting strict protective measures in place in the pharmacy in March, Mr Ball and four other members of the team took time off work after suffering COVID-19 symptoms.

Local support

Ade Williams, superintendent pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy, Bristol says that for his team (pictured below), where the government has been absent from PPE supply, the local community have stepped in.

“We also had problems getting hold of PPE after the initial delivery from PHE, so we highlighted our desperation and members of the community came forward. Some made visors, some [ordered] face masks from China,” says Mr Williams.

He says he did not feel comfortable sharing PHE’s advice with his team. “When you look at our daily working environment and you look at the guidance it doesn’t inspire confidence,” he explains. “Everybody that you see could potentially be a carrier – that’s obvious.”

Acquiring PPE is “a moral responsibility”, he says. If it hadn’t been for the community stepping up, the team would have struggled. “Outside of donations it would have been something we most likely couldn’t afford.

“In an ideal situation, there would have been essential access to all these things and you wouldn’t be left to do it yourself. I would not open the pharmacy knowing the team weren’t as protected as best as possible.”

The lack of PPE has made an already stressful situation even more difficult to cope with for pharmacies, as the sector reels from the added workload and dangers of COVID-19.

But pharmacy owners have little choice other than buying PPE themselves for their staff to minimise their chance of contracting the disease. Until the risks from catching the virus disappear, the costs of purchasing the equipment will continue to pressure their finances.

From Factory to Pharmacy

As part of our mission to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the healthcare distribution sector, we developed an infographic explaining the availability of medicines. It identifies the factors that can impact drug supply, as well as the measures that HDA members undertake day in, day out to help mitigate the risks of patients not receiving their medicines.

See the Infographic

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