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Involve pharmacy in pandemic planning, NPA tells Covid inquiry

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Involve pharmacy in pandemic planning, NPA tells Covid inquiry

By Neil Trainis

Lawyers representing the National Pharmacy Association have told the independent public inquiry into the UK’s response to the Covid pandemic that community pharmacy must be involved right from the start in discussions on the implementation of vaccines services and the planning of resources during future pandemics.

The inquiry, which began in July and is not expected to conclude until 2026, was told by lawyers from the law firm Innovo Law representing the NPA that three things need to improve as the search for answers into why so many lives were lost and what lessons can be learned continues.

First, the NPA’s legal team said, the government needs to “properly” utilise “existing primary care expertise” when it comes to tackling pandemics. Second, it called for “better planning and engagement” with community pharmacies. And thirdly, it urged Number 10 to ensure pharmacists have “improved access to information.”

The NPA also said the “administrative burden” facing pharmacies taking part in NHS vaccination programmes needed to be solved and pharmacies should have “a more coherent supply of vaccines.”

The inquiry is being chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, a retired Court of Appeal judge who was the coroner at the inquests into the victims of the 7/7 London bombings.

Brian Stanton, a director at Innovo Law, said it was important lessons are learned after the government failed to engage properly with community pharmacy during the initial stages of the programme in the autumn of 2020.

“It was only later in the programme from the spring 2021 that the community pharmacy network was able to participate more fully,” he said.

Citing figures from NHS England showing community pharmacy had delivered over 22 million vaccinations by 14 January 2022, Stanton said: “Community pharmacies played a core role in maintaining access to healthcare services during the pandemic, despite immense pressures, and they were instrumental in the successful delivery of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“As early as the summer of 2020, the NPA highlighted to government ministers, policy makers and Public Health England, the key potential role of community pharmacy in the administration of the vaccination service, having already had success and experience in the delivery of the flu vaccination for over 20 years.”

NPA chair Nick Kaye said it was important the inquiry’s recommendations “are based on the practical realities faced by health workers including pharmacy teams.”

“Although the benefits of taking part may take months or even years to filter through, I see this as an historic opportunity to place on record the achievements of community pharmacy during the pandemic,” he said.

“I’m determined that community pharmacy’s life-saving contribution will not be forgotten by future generations.”

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