COVID-19 safety measures must be in place in community pharmacy before pausing Test and Trace app says PDA

The PDA is highlighting differences in COVID-19 security in pharmacy practice across the NHS and advising employee and locum pharmacists to only pause their Test and Trace apps in a community pharmacy setting, if a satisfactory COVID-19 risk assessment has been completed and adequate PPE measures are in place for the staff and premises.

Wed 14th October 2020 The PDA

The NHS Test and Trace app uses low energy Bluetooth to identify nearby mobile phones using the same app to identify anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes at less than 2 metres proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The app sends a warning telling the person to self-isolate to reduce the risk of spreading the virus while they may be infected but still asymptomatic.

Unsurprisingly, the NHS website has recently advised healthcare workers to pause their Test and Trace app if they are working in a healthcare building such as a hospital or GP surgery. This is to prevent healthcare workers unnecessarily being told to self-isolate by the Test and Trace app after spending time near someone with COVID-19, when appropriate PPE has been worn and the working environment is safe.

The approach being taken by the PSNC and all of the other contractor representative bodies (NPA, CCA and AIMS) is that as a key part of NHS primary care services, community pharmacies should be considered as healthcare buildings and should be treated in the same way as hospitals or GP surgeries. They argue that community pharmacy teams should also be encouraged to pause their Test and Trace apps when they come to work as this would limit the disruption that would otherwise be caused to the pharmacy businesses if staff were told to self-isolate.

The PDA believes that whilst unnecessary disruption of the community pharmacy service would be detrimental to the public, from the perspective of patient and staff safety, it has concerns over a direct comparison being drawn between a hospital, a GP surgery and community pharmacy. Such a comparison would only be valid if the levels of protection from COVID-19 are the same as those implemented in hospitals and GP surgeries. However, the PDA believes this is currently not the case.

Hospitals have in place well established COVID-19 risk mitigation systems in the vast majority of locations such as security staff at hospital entrances reminding members of the public to use hand sanitisers on entering the premises, prohibiting non-essential visits and that face masks are a necessary condition of entry.

In the case of GP surgeries, most of them are now requiring patients to observe the same measures as seen in hospitals and are encouraging patients wherever possible to contact the GP virtually. Such risk mitigation arrangements are not in place in many community pharmacies where PDA members report considerable variations in the measures that are in place.

For example, some pharmacies have installed Perspex screens and provided medical grade surgical masks to staff, but others have not. According to a recent Chemist and Druggist article, only a third of community pharmacies in England have signed up to the DHSC PPE portal to secure NHS approved PPE.

Questions over PPE measures are of concern, before even considering the concerns of community pharmacy staff working in close proximity in the confines of a cramped pharmacy, in some cases with inadequate PPE compounded by poorly ventilated premises.

The need to provide both the public and the staff with equivalent levels of confidence in the COVID-19 safety precautions as seen in hospitals and GP surgeries is just one of the reasons why the PDA has written to the Ministers in all four UK nations about the need to establish tripartite meetings between government, employers and relevant trade unions to focus upon the safety of staff and the public in community pharmacies. These are yet to be supported by employer organisations.

Currently, the PDA is advising employee and locum pharmacists to only pause their Test and Trace apps in a community pharmacy setting, where a satisfactory COVID-19 risk assessment has been completed and adequate PPE measures are in place for the staff and premises.


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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