What has Covid-19 meant for hospital pharmacy?

The immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic required all the pharmacy team to be deployed to support acute services. Many of the changes implemented have either remained in place or have provided a legacy that will continue to influence the way in which pharmacy will function going forward.

The most significant impact has been the investment in Information Technology that the organisation supported. For pharmacy this enabled a faster roll out of mobile technology at patient level (wards and outpatient settings) which ironically, we had been attempting to implement for several years but funding had been a barrier to success.

The teams now have a sufficient number of devices to be able to work almost paper free which has improved efficiencies through easier access to patient results and other relevant notes and information resources.

The organisation also rolled out Microsoft Teams. The majority of meetings continue to be held virtually. This not only reduces the need to travel but also has facilitated improvements in communication as it possible to hold more frequent and targeted meetings. Over time it is intended that meetings will be a combination of virtual and face to face as the latter does allow discussions before and after and allow some informal dissection of decisions over coffee or strolling to the car park.

A number of staff continue to work from home due to shielding or social distancing requirements in the workplace. It is intended that home working will continue but likely to be on a rotated basis where possible to allow for social interaction in the workplace and the positive impact this has on mental health and wellbeing.

The need to ensure appropriate social distancing has resulted in the introduction of staggered start and finish times as well as staggered breaks. The different start and finish times have been maintained but in a way that reflects service needs so pharmacy has the right person in the right place at the right time.

The majority of outpatient clinics were suspended in response to COVID-19. There are a number of pharmacy led clinics and these were redesigned so that where possible patients were reviewed remotely, and discussions were completed by phone. The team is currently reviewing the use of virtual clinic packages and the intention is to continue to operate clinics in a combination of face to face and virtual settings.

Finally, working relationships both within and with main stakeholders have improved. This includes multidisciplinary working with clinical leads (most notably with critical care) and their teams as well as better understanding of working practices across the whole pharmacy team.

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