Published on 30/07/2020
Student in laboratory wearing white coat, looking at clipboard
  • Research funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) aims to review the role community pharmacy can play during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Key guidelines on the role of community pharmacy to be produced by Aston Pharmacy School
  • Research findings and best-practice guidance to be shared across the NHS

A new research project to understand the role that community pharmacy can play in supporting the public health agenda during pandemics such as COVID-19 is being launched at Aston University.

Researchers from Aston University, in collaboration with the Universities of Hull, Oxford, Sheffield and Bradford, and colleagues in Australia (University of Tasmania) and Canada (University of British Columbia) will be conducting a “rapid realist review”, an approach that is ideally suited to making sense of complex situations.

The review will learn lessons from what has already been written by studying academic papers and other documents. It will draw on data from other scenarios and other countries to develop transferable findings, for example, how pharmacy services can be adapted to meet the demands of COVID-19.  

It will also involve discussions with patients and care staff including pharmacy, care home staff and GPs to help the research team develop “real world” guidance on how community pharmacy can most effectively support the challenges presented by COVID-19.

The team will then work with key professional bodies to rapidly share the guidelines so that they can support practice.

Dr Ian Maidment, reader in clinical pharmacy, said:

“Community pharmacy has a key role to play in the current COVID-19 pandemic. With over 11,700 high street locations, community pharmacies can ensure people from different socio-economic groups and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups have equal access to vaccination and advice.

This project will enable us to understand how, why, for whom and when community pharmacy can effectively support the public health response to pandemics such as COVID-19 and other future health emergencies.”

Alastair Buxton, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) director of NHS Services, said:

“Community pharmacy teams have really gone the extra mile during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is important that we recognise their achievements and also learn from their experiences. This project will help the profession to do both.

We look forward to the research helping the sector and PSNC consider how else community pharmacies can best play their part in supporting patients and the NHS, as the pandemic continues to take its course.”

Emma Young, the research associate on the project, said:

“Due to their accessibility, community pharmacies are ideally placed to provide support and guidance to the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a pharmacist and researcher, I look forward to generating guidelines that will help community pharmacists support the public through this challenging time.

Dr Maidment added: “The role of community pharmacy includes supporting vaccination programmes, medication supply and providing advice to increase the uptake and acceptance of public health measures. Whilst a vaccine may yet be distant, community pharmacy can play a critical part of any mass vaccination programme.

“Community pharmacies also routinely provide services into care homes. Additionally, they may be able to support vaccination clinics at non-traditional sites such as community centres and places of worship.”



Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.


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