The new service, which was developed with support from pharmacy regulators, began trials with 12 pharmacists last week and launched yesterday (21 April), Boots announced.
Debbie Churcher, one of the first Boots pharmacists to take part, said: “As pharmacists, we see patients every day in the community who have questions about their medicines, a minor ailment or concerns about new medicines that they may have been prescribed.
“With many people currently isolating at home, patients don’t have the same access to community healthcare, so what we’re seeing is more calls to NHS 111.”
NHS England giudance for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians returning to the profession to help during the pandemic also makes reference to the initiative.
The guidance states that there are opportunities for pharmacists to take up roles with the COVID-19 response service or NHS 111, but also that local out-of-hours providers, GP surgeries, and primary care networks all have non face-to-face roles that “urgently require support”.
Richard Bradley, pharmacy director at Boots, said: “The NHS is under enormous pressure, and particularly with more people isolating at home, services like NHS 111 become even more vital. Our pharmacists have taken up this opportunity, many of whom are shielded themselves.”
He added that the multiple’s training team has created a framework that is being shared with the sector so “colleagues across other businesses can also join this service in the future”.
A spokesperson for Well told C+D today (April 22) that the multiple does not currently have any pharmacists taking part.
This was the same for Lloydspharmacy, although a company spokesperson said “we would be interested in [taking part] and we’re contacting the NHS to find out more”.
A spokesperson for Rowlands Pharmacy told C+D that all “all healthcare professional staff at Rowlands are currently fully deployed in frontline roles”.