This week’s coronavirus column comes from Olivier Picard, the Director of Newdays Pharmacy Ltd in Marlow.

Mr Picard has given his view of what we should and should not do during this pandemic, and he hopes this will be over sooner rather than later.

He said: “As a board member at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), I have come across many pharmacies in all parts of the UK - including Newdays Pharmacy group in Berkshire/Buckinghamshire – who are working extremely hard on the NHS frontline to keep our regular services going, while also meeting vastly increased demand because of coronavirus and we are still treating minor illnesses, helping people to manage long-term medical conditions, safely supplying medicines, and providing urgent care.

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“In the last few weeks, my pharmacies have been under unprecedented pressure.

Prior to the lockdown, we had a rush on people requesting prescription and an increase in footfall in the pharmacies at the same time as we tried to introduce social distancing.

“Once the lockdown was announced, the phone never stopped ringing with patients in self-isolation asking for deliveries of medication as well as pharmacy medicines and we had some instances where the number of requested deliveries went up four or five times compared to a normal day.

“Both the rush on over the counter lines and prescription items have put pressure on the supply chain, which caused the increase in the cost of many medications, meaning that margins in my pharmacies and many other independent like mine slumped to almost nothing.

“Now that the workload has returned to a more acceptable level, I am faced with PPE shortage and arguing with the NHS for not allowing ongoing allocation of PPE to community pharmacies, despite being on the NHS frontline and open to members of the public with the inability of working remotely.

“My team and I have worked 14-16hr days for almost a month, coming in the evening and during the weekend just to cope with the extra workload and received very little recognition for it.

“We have been exposed to people suffering coronavirus symptoms and others shouting abuse to pharmacy staff because waiting times are longer or because of the restrictions that have been to observe social distancing between customers and staff.

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“We have had to invest in hygiene screens on our counters and having to purchase our own PPE items, sometimes buying anything we can put our hands on to get some protection.

“As a result, pharmacy teams are under enormous pressure.

“But we’re so touched by the good wishes we’ve had from our regular patients and customers, and we want to ask for your continued support.

“Here are some other things you can do, to help us help you:

• Be patient: All pharmacies are under intense pressure and are working around the clock to ensure that you get what you need

• Be courteous to pharmacy staff even if you are stressed: they are doing their utmost to support you, so treat them as you yourself would like to be treated.

• Order medicines and purchase products as normal, there is no need to stockpile.

• Give the surgery and pharmacy time to process your prescription.

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• Because people are staying at home, pharmacies have seen demand for medicines deliveries increase. Please think first: can carers, family members, neighbours, and friends collect the prescription? Not all pharmacies offer home deliveries and those that do have to prioritise the most vulnerable housebound patients.

• Look after your health by taking preventative measures such as regular handwashing and follow official advice on social distancing and staying at home.

“Thank you for helping us to continue to do our vital work on the health service frontline and we are here for you in this crisis."