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Organisations work together to improve unpaid carers’ access to medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic

Wednesday 24th June

2 June 2020 by Carers Trust

Carers Trust, in partnership with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), has developed a suite of resources to support unpaid carers and pharmacy teams to work together to improve access essential medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent weeks, unpaid carers across the UK have described facing a growing range of pressures including struggling to arrange medicine delivery slots and coping with queues resulting from necessary social distancing measures. This has resulted in some carers feeling worried and frustrated about their ability to access medicines when they need them.

Additionally, there has been an increase in young carers being turned away from pharmacies. This has caused distress for families where the only person able to collect a prescription is a young carer.

Kathryn Hill, Director of England, said:

“Network Partners of Carers Trust, local charities that work directly with unpaid carers, have reported to us that accessing medicines has caused stress and concern for many unpaid carers over the past few weeks.

“At a time where unpaid carers are under significant emotional, physical and financial pressure it is important that they do not face additional hurdles to access the medicines that they, or their loved ones, rely on.

“We’re delighted to have led a partnership that has developed tools to help carers and pharmacists work together to make sure that everyone who needs to access medicines is able to do so as easily as possible.”

Pharmacy teams have had to adapt quickly to ensure that people can continue to benefit from community pharmacy during the pandemic. The necessary changes that have been made have impacted on all who attend community pharmacy, including unpaid carers.

Carers Trust, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and PSNC have worked together to make pharmacists across England aware of simple things that can be put in place to improve carers’ experiences and ability to access the medicines they need. These include: 

  • Allowing two people into store when the carer has no choice but to take the person being cared for to the pharmacy with them
  • Considering prioritising un-paid carers of vulnerable / shielding people for medicine delivery slots
  • Recognising that, for some families, young carers are the only people able to collect medicines in the household

Chair of the RPS in England, Prof Claire Anderson, said:

“We’re pleased to back this campaign with the Carers Trust so that carers and pharmacy teams can work even more closely to support vulnerable people.

“Carers make an enormous contribution and the past few months have shown just how much we depend on them.

“Vulnerable people will need ongoing support to cope with COVID-19 for the longer-term. Pharmacies, in the heart of their communities, will continue to help, providing expert health advice and access to the medicines carers and their families need.”

Zoe Long, PSNC’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs, said: 

“Community pharmacies have had to make significant changes to their ways of working in order to remain open safely for patients and local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has included putting in place measures to allow for social distancing.

“Like pharmacies, Carers are playing a crucial role in helping many people to access their medicines, and we hope this guidance from Carers Trust will help them and pharmacy teams to better understand the pressures they are both under at this time and the steps they can take to help one another.”

A guide has also been published to support unpaid carers to make the most out of their pharmacy team. It sets out helpful hints and tips for carers including:

  • Ordering prescriptions at least seven days before they are needed
  • Only ordering as much medicine as needed
  • Checking dispensing hours before visiting a pharmacy
  • Asking family, friends or a local action group to help if you’re unable to collect a prescription
  • Making an emergency plan in case you become unwell and cannot collect medication
  • Making sure you know the full name, address and date of birth for anyone you’re collecting a prescription for and bringing ID with you

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