World news wrapup: 27 March 2020

prescription pad doctor

Doctors slammed for triple length scripts; new hours to keep UK pharmacies open; Californian pharmacists want recognition and protection

UK: British GPs have come under fire for giving patients prescriptions which will give them three months’ worth of medicine at one dispensing, against NHS guidelines, reports the Daily Mail.

Northern Ireland appears to be particularly hard hit, writes health reporter Vanessa Chalmers, with some pharmacies “flooded” with orders up to four times the usual volume.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison told the Northern Ireland Health Committee said that COVID-19 has not sparked a shortage and that that supply continues, but that “the demand from the public for prescription medicines has been tremendous.

‘In Northern Ireland some of our pharmacies are reporting more than four times the volume of prescription items.

‘Unfortunately, the messages around stockpiling and over-ordering have not totally got through to the public.

‘I would really like to make a plea to people that there is no need to over-order and there’s no need to stockpile medicines, that we’ve got to keep that medicine supply chain flowing.

She said that GPs have ordered double the amount of paper usually required to print scripts.


UK: Pharmacy Business reports that the British Government has released a revised set of standard operating procedures for pharmacies, allowing them some flexibility with opening hours and times.

Pharmacies are now able to close to the public for up to two and a half hours a day (including at lunchtime), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee says.

Stores are now able to decide to open between 10am and 12 midday, and 2pm to 4pm as a minimum, to ensure that pharmacy staff can cope with increased workloads and stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also aimed at helping pharmacies stay open at all.

PSNC says that it is currently finalising negotiations with the Government about a new, national pharmacy medicines delivery service to support the 1.5 million or so patients with serious underlying conditions, who are to be told to stay home for 12 weeks to prevent them from contracting the disease.


California, US: The Board of Trustees of the California Pharmacists Association have urged governments at state and federal levels to officially recognise pharmacists and staff as frontline health providers.

This would facilitate access to more personal protective gear as well as other protections for these workers and their patients, reports Yahoo Finance.

“Ensuring consistent protection and control measures in all settings where pharmacists and technicians work is of utmost importance,” said Dr Ken Thai, CPhA President.

“Not only is it critical to ensuring the safety of the pharmacy workforce, but it is essential to the maintenance of vital public health services.”

CPhA is calling for all “employers, manufacturers, distributors, health systems, and settings in which pharmacists and pharmacy personnel practice to immediately put into place protections, control measures, and procedures,” said Dr Thai.

“This will not only ensure their safety, but is critical to ensuring they can remain on the front lines, protecting public health during this international pandemic.”


Christchurch, New Zealand: The Unichem Cashel Pharmacy in Christchurch has announced that it will stop customers entering the premises unless they are well, reports TV New Zealand.

Pharmacist Annabel Turley told Seven Sharp that “My highest priority at the moment is my staff”.

“We will obviously need to record who they are, what time they enter and then, from there, if they need something, they need to purchase something, they will pay using Eftpos or credit, but not with cash. If they require a vaccination, then we will move them into the area for the vaccination,” Ms Turley said.

She said despite New Zealand’s move to a lockdown, the pharmacy had not had any communication from the Government apart from being told that pharmacies as well as grocery stores would be able to remain open at “alert level four”.

“We haven’t been provided with any personal protective equipment. We haven’t been given any guidance on how we should run our day-to-day business and that sort of thing, so we’ve really had to take it on ourselves.”

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