Covid 19 – 5th March

General points

  • Members of the public should continue following HM Government and NHS advice about the COVID-19 coronavirus from: and
  • This includes advice on self-isolation and hand hygiene.
  • Some pharmacies are reporting that they are having an increasing number of conversations with patients worried about the COVID-19 coronavirus.
  • Pharmacies have reported that personal protective equipment (particularly face masks) are difficult to source – HM Government is aware of this and taking steps to ensure that face masks will be available for pharmacies to order for their staff to use when appropriate.
  • Pharmacies have received initial guidance from the NHS and await further instructions as the UK moves to the later stages of its strategy for handling the possible spread of COVID-19.
  • National media reports have suggested that hand sanitisers are now difficult to obtain, but NHS advice is to wash hands for twenty seconds or more with soap and hot water.
  • Medicines shortages and price concessions are currently at a normal level – there were 54 concessions granted in February and 55 in January.
  • PSNC is not receiving increased volumes of reports on shortages yet, but we are of course watching the situation carefully and will work HM Government to try to protect the continuity of supply of all medicines.

 Advice to pharmacies

  • Initial guidance for pharmacies was published last week by NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) but further work will now need to take place to work through how the sector will contribute to some of the many challenges that could arise in an epidemic situation.
  • At the moment pharmacies are being asked to take four key steps:
  1. Read the NHSE&I guidance and implement its recommended actions regarding preparing for COVID-19;
  2. Clearly display the COVID-19 posters at points of entry to your pharmacy and near the medicines counter;
  3. Read your business continuity plan and consider whether it needs to be updated to reflect the current and emerging situation;
  4. Keep up to date with developments by regularly checking the information on  COVID-19 on GOV.UK  and checking your NHSmail shared mailbox on a regular basis for updates from NHSE&I.


  • PSNC has commenced discussions with HM Government on matters such as the provision of protective equipment for pharmacies; contingency funding for any pharmacies who need it; protection for pharmacies against sudden medicines price rises; and ensuring ongoing provision of pharmaceutical services in the case of significant volumes of staff absences.
  • Much of this builds on discussions we have had with the NHS previously about pandemic planning.
  • LPCs are feeding local intelligence from their contractors into PSNC to support these discussions, and are tackling local matters such as communication with local GP representatives.
  • HM Government is in the early stages of planning the response to COVID-19. There are many details still to be worked out and PSNC will be a part of those discussions, looking at how we can best protect the network of community pharmacies and allow them to continue their crucial work through this crisis.
  • We and the LPCs will remain in close contact and will continue to update contractors as the situation develops.

HM Government Planning

  • HM Government is leading on planning for the possible spread of COVID-19 and has this week published a high level plan setting out how it would handle this:
  • DHSC are leading discussions on medicines supply – the Department’s Medicine Supply Team has well-established procedures to deal with medicine shortages.
  • As well as banning the parallel export of some medicines DHSC have asked medicine suppliers who still retain some of their EU exit stockpiles to hold onto these.
  • Suppliers have also been asked to assess the risks relating to continuity of supply, as a result of COVID-19, particularly medicine supplies from China and other areas affected by COVID-19.