The weeks since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK have been a whirlwind. Our health service and pharmacy teams have been tested like never before.

At a time when there is so much anxiety and uncertainty, I have been truly inspired and impressed to see pharmacy teams across the country rising to the challenge, going above and beyond for patients. The pandemic has shone a light on our crucial role and unwavering dedication to our patients and our colleagues.

RPS – Here for You

At RPS, we’re here to support you. Our dedicated COVID-19 hub page on our website is updated daily and includes a range of resources. We’ve rapidly produced a range of new guidance, including ethical, professional decision making during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also have a host of new FAQs and webinars to support your practice at these unprecedented times.

A crucial part of our role is making sure that your voice is being heard. This has been a core focus for RPS during the pandemic so that those in power understand, appreciate and give recognition to the vital work you do.

We are listening to the concerns of our members and working to address these concerns by lobbying and working with Welsh Government, Assembly members and NHS organisations on your behalf.

Protecting you

Ensuring your safety with access to appropriate PPE and COVID-19 testing has been our number one priority. In Wales pharmacy teams have been right at the top of the list for testing. On PPE, everyday we’re monitoring Welsh Government updates about the situation, as well as gaining insight from those of you in practice. If you are not getting access to appropriate PPE or testing, please let us know. Your insight is crucial when we speak to Government on the issue.

The majority of the public have been supportive and really appreciated the lengths pharmacy teams are going to for them at this time. However, I have been saddened to hear about the minority of the public who have shown aggressive behaviour towards pharmacy teams, particularly in the community. We have publicly expressed that this is not acceptable. We continue to take all opportunities to promote the profession through media and explain to the public the pressures facing pharmacy, asking for their support and patience. In all we have made your voice heard over 20 different Welsh TV, Radio and broadcast media platforms.

We’ve also worked closely with the police over the last few weeks. Across Wales police forces are now acutely aware of this issue and are proactively contacting pharmacies to offer support. Following our discussions, the police want to reassure you that they will take action if they have any reports of this nature. They also urge any pharmacy team who require additional support to get in touch with their local policing team.

We’re also pleased that politicians have listened to our concerns. The First Minister has publicly made clear that this behaviour is unacceptable. Additionally, following a briefing with us, Plaid Cymru’s Health Spokesperson, filmed a video encouraging the public to behave responsibly towards pharmacy teams.

Gaining recognition and support for you

Each member of the pharmacy team is a critical key worker in this pandemic response. We have heard from many members about challenges in confirming this status for those who don’t have an NHS ID. Our letters to confirm key worker status, available to download from the RPS website, have been designed to support the profession with those practical issues of accessing priority shopping at supermarkets and ensuring child care. We continue to work with government and raise the need for a longer term, official solution to this issue.

 

A COVID-19 Death in Service Scheme was announced on April 27th, to provide support for families should the absolute worst happen. There was a period of uncertainty over whether this scheme applied to community pharmacists. We sought clarity on this and welcomed the statement from the Welsh Health Minister confirming inclusion.

Another crucial policy ask was that pharmacy teams have access to mental health and wellbeing support. We have developed a wellbeing hub on our website to support you and your teams. We are pleased that in Wales, following RPS campaigning, the Welsh Government has extended access to its Health for Health Professional Wales Service to all pharmacy professionals.

Sharing Best Practice

We’re privileged to be able highlight and share some of your amazing work, which we do regularly on our social media channels. We’ve already shared great stories from the incredible work of setting up field hospitals right across Wales, to clinical trials, procurement and technical services teams and many more.

Please do continue telling us about the amazing work you and your colleagues are doing. Contact us though our Facebook page or wales@rpharms.com.

Finally, a big thank you to all our pharmacy team members working across Wales for your continued work and care for patients. Rest assured that we at the RPS remain committed to supporting you and your teams.