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Community Support for Community Pharmacy FAQs

Community and Voluntary Support for Community Pharmacies FAQs

What is the scheme?

The scheme has been established to co-ordinate the community and voluntary sector support for community pharmacies across Northern Ireland. This support has two main elements:

  •  Safe delivery of medication to people who cannot collect it themselves
  • Assistance with queue management within the pharmacy setting

Community groups who meet the required criteria can register with CDHN and will be matched with pharmacies for either or both of these functions.

This support is intended to help community pharmacy only during this time of crisis and it is anticipated that all support will be stood down when the crisis is over.

How was this scheme developed?

The scheme was established following feedback from community pharmacies that these were the areas for which they needed support. At the same time, CDHN received feedback from community and voluntary sector groups that they were already providing this support, albeit in an informal capacity and with no protocols. There was a recognition that the development of protocols to safeguard everyone involved would be a positive and practical step.

The scheme was developed and commissioned by the Health and Social Care Board and has received positive recognition from community pharmacy representative bodies and Pharmacy Regulator.

CDHN has over 18 years’ experience of working with community pharmacy through the BCPP Programme and has developed and funded hundreds of partnerships between pharmacies and local communities during that time. We are uniquely placed to manage this scheme and are delighted to be able to support our colleagues during this crisis.

We are not receiving any additional funding at present to carry out this role. Like many community and voluntary sector organisation, we have refocused our work to respond to the crisis and are using the resources we would normally invest in our BCPP Programme to make this happen.

We fully appreciate the fantastic response of all groups and organisations to the COVID-19 crisis. It has been heartening and humbling to witness people giving of their time so selflessly - true community development in action!!

Why do we need it?

More and more people are finding themselves in the position of needing medication delivered to their homes as a result of the implementation of self-isolation and shielding policies. It is recognised that this extra demand is putting further strain on pharmacies to support their patients but it is important that patients, particularly those most vulnerable, can be confident that they will receive their medicines. While some pharmacies routinely provide delivery services, it is a new development for others.

The assistance of community and voluntary groups in delivering medication is a very important part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a serious function and places specific responsibilities on volunteers, including the need to maintain patient confidentiality, adhere to public health guidance and maintain the security and safety of the medicines. Some prescriptions for home delivery contain medicines that have a high street value. A time of crisis can lead to fraudulent activity and the delivery of medicine can be at a real risk of being exploited or targeted.

We are acutely aware that this crisis is set to continue for several months. The turnover of volunteers to support pharmacies in these roles could be quite high – volunteers may need to take a break or self-isolate. It is essential therefore that this approach is centrally managed so that there can be, as far as possible, a constant flow of support to pharmacies when they need it. There needs to be a robustly managed process that allows pharmacies to avail of much needed support from the community and voluntary sector with confidence that they are well organised and managed with the capacity to commit to this process in its entirety and support their volunteers to do the same.

What are the criteria?

In order to register to deliver medication to people’s homes, organisations must meet the following criteria.

  • Have a constitution or other appropriate governing document
  • Have volunteers that have had some form of Access NI check carried out
  • Have appropriate policies and procedures in place to support the effective recruitment and management of volunteers
  • Have adequate insurance to carry out these volunteering activities and have checked that their insurance policy covers volunteers

What is the process?

Any groups that meet the criteria outlined above and are either already delivering medication, or intend to start doing so, should contact CDHN and request an application pack. The registration pack contains the following information.

  • A copy of the Standard Operating Procedures
  • A Partnership Agreement Form
  • A confidentiality statement (to be signed by each volunteer)

When the paperwork has been completed and submitted, CDHN will carry out some basic checks to ensure the information provided is accurate and we will then commence the process of matching the organisation to pharmacy. Once the match has been made, we will contact each organisation and assign them a unique reference code along with details of the pharmacy they will support.

CDHN has a small amount of funding available to cover volunteer costs. This funding is only available to community and voluntary sector organisations that have not received funding from elsewhere for this purpose.

CDHN will check in with organisations and their matched pharmacies on a regular basis to make sure the process is working and to help deal with any issues which may arise.

We are already doing this, why should we register?

This is the only recognised and approved scheme for volunteer delivery of medication in Northern Ireland. It is a voluntary scheme so organisations do not have to sign up. They should be aware, however, that if they do not sign up and continue to deliver medication as an organisation, they assume liability if something goes wrong and should inform their committee/trustees of this. If groups sign up to this scheme, the responsibility is shared in that each party (pharmacy, community/voluntary group and volunteer) are required to adhere to a Standard Operating Procedure. That offers much more protection than the previous scenario.

We are asking organisations who register to inform their insurers that they are carrying out this function and ensure their cover extends to it. Furthermore, as the Health and Social Care Board has commissioned CDHN to organise the volunteer service, there is additional indemnity provided to those that operate under these arrangements under Section 13 of the Coronavirus Act 2020. The scheme has been established to protect everyone involved in the delivery of medication – the pharmacy, the volunteer, the community or voluntary organisation and, most of all, the patient.

The other benefit of signing up is access to the funding that CDHN can offer as a contribution towards volunteer costs. 

I am already delivering medications for my family and friends, do I need to register?

No, this scheme is only for organisations who wish to manage volunteers in the delivery of prescriptions for community pharmacies. You can continue to collect prescriptions on behalf of family, friends and neighbours as the arrangement is between the patient (family member, friend or neighbour) and you, as an individual.

Do I need to register to deliver food, PPE equipment or other items?

No, this scheme is only for the safe delivery of prescriptions from community pharmacy. You do not need to be registered on the scheme to deliver other items.

Does this scheme apply to the delivery of hospital medications, the collection of scripts from GP surgeries or the ordering of prescriptions on behalf of patients?

No, this scheme is only for the safe delivery of medications from community pharmacy. These other functions fall outside the scope of the scheme. For advice on dealing with these issues, contact the respective hospital or GP practice.

We are a 'pop-up group' and will disband when this is over, can we register?

'Pop up groups' by their nature are informal groups of people who take on volunteering duties for a defined period or for a specific function. Consequently, they are not constituted and do not have public liability insurance. CDHN, therefore, cannot register them at this point.