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Safe Handling of Controlled Drugs during the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Wales
  • England
  • Scotland
  • Northern Ireland

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have issued guidance on the safe handling of Controlled Drugs during the pandemic and some temporary changes that are effective immediately.

Read the Guidance letter here

There are two points that are relevant to community pharmacy:

2. Reporting Incidents and Concerns (Applicable to all)

  • Report incidents or concerns that you consider are “extremely serious” or have had a “catastrophic” outcome to be reported. 
  • Reports must be made as soon as practicable and via  For clarity, the following are examples of what should be reported:
    • serious patient harm or death
    • suspected or actual diversion by a staff member 
    • significant loss/theft 

Suspected misappropriation by staff at this time is of particular concern to us as colleagues across the system are under intense personal pressure.  We receive regular reports of health care professionals accessing CDs at work to cope, self-medicate or self-harm.  Please ensure that your governance ensures that health and wellbeing of your colleagues is protected.

Numark still advises the completion of a Patient Safety Report in line with your current procedures but unless you consider it to be either ‘extremely serious’ or having a ‘catastrophic’ outcome they do not need to be reported to your CD Accountable Officer. It is also important that any changes in procedures during the pandemic do not adversely affect the safe custody and safe supply of controlled drugs.

5. Authorised Persons to witness the destruction of controlled drugs

Designated bodies should continue to follow your organisation’s process. For primary care and community pharmacy, we will continue to process applications received through the established route by logging onto the CD Reporting website and selecting ‘Authority to Witness the Destruction of Controlled Drugs’ Applications may take longer to process than normal.

Pharmacy “multiples” that have authorised persons within their establishment should continue to follow their established processes.

NHS England is unable to send authorised persons to attend any premises.

Numark still advises pharmacy teams to quarantine any date expired Controlled Drugs and apply for an authorised person to witness the destruction. Any patient-returned Controlled Drugs can continue to be destroyed in the pharmacy following your current procedures.