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International Journal of Pharmacy Practice ; 30(SUPPL 1):i15-i16, 2022.
Article in English | EMBASE | ID: covidwho-1816116


Introduction: Community pharmacy is one of the most accessible sectors in the health service and played a key role in responding to COVID-19 (1). Efforts to tackle COVID-19 have required an immediate response from the community pharmacy workforce. Aim: To examine views and experiences of community pharmacists regarding changes in practice/processes in preparation for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: A telephone questionnaire was conducted across a geographically stratified sample of community pharmacists in Northern Ireland (NI). Based on the total number of pharmacies (N=528) and an anticipated response rate of 30%, up to 433 pharmacies were to be contacted to achieve a target sample size of n=130 (sampling fraction 24%). The questionnaire sections comprised: (1) measures taken to prevent COVID-19 infection;(2) response to the pandemic, i.e. immediate actions taken, effect on service provision and new/innovative ways of working;(3) pandemic preparedness;(4) communication with GPs and patients;(5) professional knowledge;(6) recovery and future outlook. Data were coded, entered into SPSS v27, and analysed descriptively. Free-text comments were summarised using thematic analysis. Results: One hundred and thirty community pharmacists (175 approached) completed the questionnaire (74% response rate). Pharmacists responded comprehensively to implementing infection control measures, e.g. management of social distancing in the shop (n=125, 96.2%), making adjustments to premises, e.g. barriers/screens (n=124, 95.4%), while maintaining medicines supply (n=130, 100.0%) and advice to patients (n=121, 93.1%). Patient-facing services such as minor ailments and smoking cessation were initially stopped by 115 (88.5%) and 93 (71.5%) pharmacies respectively during the first wave of the pandemic (March-May 2020);by the second wave (Sep-Dec 2020), modified services had resumed in 121 (93.1%) and 104 (79.9%) pharmacies respectively. Newly commissioned services were provided, e.g. emergency supply service (n=121, 93.1%), flu vaccination for healthcare workers (n=101, 77.7%) and volunteer deliveries to vulnerable people (n=71, 54.6%);new initiatives were developed, e.g. measures to flag/assist patients with sensitive issues (n=73, 56.2%). Pharmacies with a business continuity plan increased from 85 (65.4%) pre-pandemic to 101 (77.7%) during the second wave. Free-text responses indicated how pharmacists adapted practice in the front line to reassure and advise the public and maintain essential medicines supply. Pharmacists were least prepared for the increased workload and patients' challenging behaviour, but 126 (96.9%) reported that they felt better prepared during the second wave. Telephone was the main method of communication with patients (n=107, 82.3%) and GPs (n=114, 87.7%). Pharmacists felt they had sufficient training resources available (n=113, 86.9%) to maintain professional knowledge. Pharmacists agreed/strongly agreed that they would be able to re-establish normal services (n=114, 87.7%), were willing to administer COVID-19 vaccines (n=105, 80.7%) and provide COVID-19 testing (n=79, 60.8%) in the future. Conclusion: The high response rate is a strength of the study, but the impact is limited by not including patients or service commissioners. The pharmacy workforce remained accessible and maintained supply of essential medicines and advice to patients throughout the pandemic. Provision of modified and additional services such as vaccination reinforced the clinical and public health role of pharmacy.

International Journal of Pharmacy Practice ; 30(SUPPL 1):i21-i22, 2022.
Article in English | EMBASE | ID: covidwho-1816102


Introduction: Community pharmacy has played a frontline role during the COVID-19 pandemic (1,2). Governments and professional organisations in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland (RoI) have acknowledged the need to support and maximise community pharmacy to maintain delivery of patient care. However, the pandemic's impact on day-to-day changes to community pharmacy practice has not been comprehensively examined across the island of Ireland. Aim: To identify changes as communicated by policy and professional bodies to community pharmacy practice across the island of Ireland in preparation for and/or response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to compare identified changes in Northern Ireland (NI) and RoI. Methods: Government, health service, regulatory and professional organisation websites in both NI and RoI were searched using relevant search terms (e.g. pharmacist, COVID- 19). Any document (e.g. official publications/reports, website pages, circulars) containing information relating to changes to community pharmacy-related infrastructure, funding/resourcing, legislation, guidelines or policies in preparation for, and/ or response to, COVID-19, published between 1st January and 31st October 2020 was included. Guidelines on clinical use of medicines were excluded as this was considered a separate topic. Initial screening of each website was undertaken by one reviewer. Brief details of potentially relevant documents were collated in a spreadsheet. Following removal of duplicates, full-texts of identified documents were assessed for inclusion by two reviewers independently, with discrepancies resolved through discussion. A content analysis was undertaken. Results: In total, 253 documents were identified. Following removal of duplicates and screening, 98 documents were included in the analysis. Most documents were published in the first three months of the pandemic (March-May 2020). A key theme related to medication prescribing and supply, with changes implemented to ensure continued access to medicines. In both NI and RoI, significant changes were made to emergency supply arrangements (e.g. increase in allowable duration of supply at the request of patients). In RoI, legislative changes were made to recognise Healthmail as the national electronic prescription transfer system and to temporarily extend prescription validity. In NI, many community pharmacy services (e.g. Minor Ailments Service, Medicines Use Review) were 'stood down' during initial months of the pandemic. Much of the communication in NI and RoI related to operational changes to ensure business continuity. In both jurisdictions a temporary register of pharmacists was introduced to allow previously registered pharmacists to contribute to the health service response. Additionally, in NI, General Dental Practitioners were redeployed to assist with community pharmacy response. Other areas of focus across both jurisdictions included infection control within a workplace setting, dealing with situations where staff were affected by COVID-19, and the use of personal protective equipment during pharmacy service provision. Conclusion: This study examined changes in community pharmacy practice across two jurisdictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst our searches were limited to publicly accessible documents only, the overlap in identified changes reflects the similarities in challenges faced by community pharmacists in adapting and responding to COVID-19. The cross-country comparison may help pharmacists and policy-makers to identify optimal approaches for responding to any future public health crises.