Frequently Asked Questions

This section details answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) PDA has been asked relating to the COVID-19 crisis. The FAQs were last updated on 20 April 2020.

You may also want to review our covid updates for communications we have published since this period began. This section will be updated and answers expanded throughout the crisis period.

Health & Safety

H1. What is the PDA position on the provision of PPE to pharmacists?

Pharmacists in community pharmacy, just like colleagues in hospitals and elsewhere in the NHS need Personal Protective Equipment. Responsibility for this sits with both the government and the employers Learn more. It is not acceptable for pharmacists to be placed at unnecessary risk due to this not being provided. We need PPE in community pharmacies now. PPE not only protects the pharmacist and their family, but it protects all subsequent patients too.  The PDA is pushing for this and has raised the issue directly with Health ministers in all four UK nations.  Learn more. 

UK Government updated guidance on the use of PPE on 2nd April. Where social distancing measures cannot be implemented, fluid-resistant surgical masks (FRSMs) should be worn. NHSE and PHE have subsequently stated that masks are only to be worn when dealing with customers and are not for staff in dispensariesthe PDA believes this is a fundamentally flawed position.  

The PDA believes that the PHE needs to change this advice for dispensary staff and that pharmacy owners are under an obligation to uphold Health & Safety regulations and should be providing adequate PPE in the absence of NHS supplies and should certainly not be preventing staff from wearing government recommended PPE. 

H2. What is the PDA position on the provision of testing for pharmacists?

Pharmacists are in the front line and need to have testing available to ensure a sustainable system and to protect them, their families and their patients. This applies to community pharmacists as well as those in hospitals, prisons and elsewhere if they are coming into contact with patients.

H3. What is the position about remote supervision?

Large numbers of PDA members are reporting they are being asked to break the law by their employers under the pre-text of the pandemic. This is unacceptable and must stop.  We’ve heard from locum and employed pharmacists that a number of employers are misrepresenting the recent joint message from the GPhC and PSNI. 

The PDA is extremely concerned that these employers are inciting pharmacists to break the law through internal guidance and using the pandemic as an excuse. It is apparent that some pharmacy multiples wish to operate pharmacies without a pharmacist even though a locum would be available, but the pharmacy is unprepared to use them. 

We are among those who have raised this concern with the regulator and they have confirmed the position. Learn more. 

H4. What is happening about the level of abuse we are getting from patients and customers?

We have a longstanding campaign to end violence in pharmacies, including verbal abuse, in which we have been working with some police forces. We’ve built on that and are asking Police & Crime Commissioners and Police forces to act on this again now. Learn more. 

Get involved: To support our campaign please contact your local Police Commissioner on social media or email them your concerns, you can also share the PDA resources. 

H5: What is the PDA position on use of consultation rooms during the COVID crisis?

The PDA believes that the most important issues during the COVID-19 crisis are protecting patient and staff safety and ensuring ongoing provision of prescription and other pharmacy services. Placing pharmacists or other pharmacy staff and individuals who could be carrying the virus in cramped consultation rooms where social distancing is not possible is unacceptable.

We believe any pharmacy owners pressurising their staff to continue providing additional non-urgent revenue attracting services under these circumstances, particularly in the absence of adequate PPE, may be in breach of all 5 principles of the GPhC Standards for Pharmacy Premises.

Read about the standards here: Standards for Registered Pharmacies

Students and Pre-registration trainees

S1. How are the Pre-registration Trainees “Class of 2020” going to be supported?

We support pharmacy students and pre-registration trainees and have many in membership.   

We have written to pre-registration trainees about how we are supporting them with the consequences of the decision to cancel the final assessment. Learn more  

S2. How are the current year 1-4 Pharmacy students being supported and what are they expected to do in this crisis?

There are currently no plans to call upon existing fourth-year students to directly support the efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. However, Pre-registration membership of PDA provides independent indemnity insurance, plus all the other benefits of being part of the PDA for FREE.

Should students be called upon, we will respond by adapting our arrangements, and in advance of that, we encourage all students to join us now (for FREE) so that you are already included on our membership database. Learn more. Get involved.

S3: What is the impact on the current Years 1-4 for the remainder of this year and next year?

The current year 4 pharmacy students are uncertain about their final exams and pre-reg placements. Those in other years will have similar concerns.  We are reaching out to the Pharmacy Schools to establish the collective response to the crisis is likely to be. With the threat of a normal pre-reg experience being turned upside down, pharmacy undergraduates need reassurance and clarity about their future.

Locums

L1. How are Locums being supported in this crisis?

Around a third of PDA’s 30,000 members are full time locums or have portfolio careers and this update highlights issues unique to that population and their critical role as part of the pharmacist workforce during this crisis period.

Locums are a critical part of the pharmacist response to COVID19 and the PDA are responding to the issues our locum members raise. We are taking action on a range of issues that specifically affect Locums.  

L2. What is happening about locum rates in this period of crisis?

We’ve been disappointed to hear that some employers have threatened to report locums for requesting certain rates and the PDA has provided some clarification and reassurance to locum pharmacists about the agreement of locum rates during the COVID19 crisis period.   

We will report any attempts by employers to manipulate a free market.  

Indemnity

I1. What arrangements are there for individual indemnity for those returning to practice?

We published an update about how indemnity cover for PDA members will be managed for this COVID period.  Learn more. We’ve also worked with insurance underwriters to develop a special policy exclusively for those that have returned to practice and are on the temporary register.  The policy application process is currently going through system testing and details will be published very soon.

PDA membership provides more than indemnity to protect patients, such as legal defence and public liability insurances and our support and guidance when you need it. Plus, this includes trade union membership, a donation to Pharmacist Support – the professions’ charity and access to our PDA Plus package of discounts and offers, which mean you could actually save more money than your membership costs. Learn more. Get involved. 

I2: What is the PDA position on indemnity for pharmacists working in a different sector during the COVID crisis?

The PDA has acted to protect member interests through discussions with underwriters. We can confirm that where pharmacists are putting the interests of patients first having undertaken a professional decision-making process, underwriters have agreed to extend cover to support pharmacists involved in activities that are beyond the normal scope of their work or when they work beyond the law or the professional regulations. This means that pharmacists can continue to rely on the PDAs professional indemnity scheme for compensation-related issues as well as its full support and representation in the event of any inquests, threatened sanctions or employer disciplinary matters being taken against them.

In addition, NHS Resolution will provide professional indemnity to support any necessary compensation payments for patients specifically for any errors that occur in those situations related to the treatment or diagnosis of COVID-19.  Learn more

I3: What is the PDA position on Professional Indemnity and Legal Defence Costs insurance for pharmacists working during the COVID-19 crisis?

The PDA has acted to protect member interests through discussions with underwriters and to seek extensions to the indemnity protection provided under the various PDA member schemes.

Professional Indemnity – For pharmacy related COVID-19 work

A choice of £5m or £10million of indemnity protection is automatically provided for routine pharmacy work and for any COVID-19 related pharmacy work. This cover has also been extended to pharmacy related situations where pharmacists, during the COVID crisis have decided to put the interests and the care of patients first. Having undertaken a professional decision-making process, they may be involved in pharmacy related activities that are beyond the normal scope of their work. This may include pharmacy related activities that are outside of the strictures of the law or the professional regulations. Examples might include supplying medicines where there is no prescription, or where additional risk is being taken by an IP through extending the scope of prescribing.

For non-pharmacy related COVID-19 work

Professional Indemnity for non-pharmacy related COVID-19 work is not covered by the PDA’s indemnity scheme, however, work that is not covered by the PDA’s indemnity scheme is indemnified by a UK wide state backed scheme operated by the NHS as proscribed in the Coronavirus Act 2020.

Legal Defence Costs Insurance – Provided for both pharmacy related and non pharmacy related COVID-19 work

The usual £500,000 limit of Legal Defence Costs insurance is provided whether for routine or COVID-19 related pharmacy work as well as for non-pharmacy related COVID-19 work. This includes situations where the activities are undertaken as part of a professional decision making process which puts the patient first and which sees the pharmacist acting outside the strictures of the law or the professional regulations.

This means that pharmacists can continue to rely on the PDA’s professional indemnity scheme for pharmacy related compensation issues, the State backed indemnity scheme for non-pharmacy related issues and the full support of the PDA’s Legal Defence Costs insurance across all areas to include representation in the event of any inquests, threatened regulatory sanctions, employer disciplinary or criminal prosecutions. The UK wide state backed scheme operated by the NHS as proscribed in the Coronavirus Act 2020 provides compensation payments to patients in the event of a claim that is not covered by the PDA, it is not designed to protect the reputation of practitioners and does not provide Legal Defence Costs protection for these situations.

Unclassified

U1. What can the PDA do to help us get recognised as key workers?

We know you are key workers However, there are unfortunately still reports of some schools and childcare, supermarkets and even some authorities not being clear about the key role pharmacists perform and challenging pharmacists’ status. We continue to raise this and recently government ministers and others have started to explicitly acknowledge pharmacists.

In the meantime, we have also produced a personalised digital ID card to help you explain your role which our members can download from our website. Learn more.

U2: Is it right that retired pharmacists have been called back into practice, many may be in high risk categories?

While these individuals have been added to a temporary register for this crisis period, they haven’t been conscripted and so can decide where to practice or could decide not to practice or indeed could opt out entirely and ask that they be removed from the temporary register.

Practice

P1: What is the PDA view on IP pharmacists in general practice being asked to sign prescriptions for high risk drugs such as DMARDS and warfarin in the absence of a recent blood result because the patient has been self-isolating?

Essential testing is described as essential for good reason and should be maintainedalthough there may be guidance from local hospital trusts or the local CCG on relaxing some of the testing intervals. 

Unless pharmacist has the skills and experience to decide that it is safe to issue high-risk medicine to a patient in the absence of a recent blood result, they should not be signing these prescriptions but referring the patient to their GP.  

If a practice has not agreed a practice-wide approach to dealing with patients on high risk medicines (e.g. DMARDs, warfarin)the practice pharmacist is well-placed to raise this as a safety issue and support the practice in sourcing the necessary national and local information to enable a practice policy to be drafted.  

The RCGP has produced a useful document on prioritising work during the COVID pandemic. 

NICE has produced some Rapid Guidelines covering a range of therapeutic areas several of which provide guidance on blood monitoring for relevant treatments. 

NHS E has also produced some guidance on managing certain specialties during the pandemic including anticoagulation. 

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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