COVID-19 testing for Community Pharmacists, their teams and their families

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHS E&I) wrote to NHS organisations on 12th April 2020 outlining plans to extend COVID-19 testing for NHS staff and family members.

Fri 24th April 2020 The PDA

When asked whether pharmacists should be given access to COVID testing in our member survey, 99% of those who responded said “Yes”.

It’s a month after lockdown and today key staff, to include pharmacists and their teams as well as the families that they live with, who may be exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are being allowed to join the NHS staff testing scheme in England. The PDA welcomes this extension of national NHS staff and family member testing to include community pharmacy staff in England – a belated acknowledgement that community pharmacy is indeed part of the NHS family and should be treated as such.

With the prioritisation of healthcare workers including pharmacists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already being in place, today’s announcement in England means that testing is now finally in place for community pharmacists, their teams and their families across all four UK nations.

Information on the schemes can be found below.

Should you test positive, we encourage you to highlight the important Health & Safety reporting requirements to your employer as detailed in this article.

The PDA also expect employers to disregard any absence due to coronavirus from any current or future absence management processes involving any individuals. Members subject to such processes should contact the PDA office.

COVID-19 testing for community pharmacy staff in England

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHS E&I) wrote to NHS organisations on 12th April 2020 outlining plans to extend COVID-19 testing for NHS staff and family members. Pharmacy contractors were then sent details on how their staff can access testing. This information was sent in an email by the NHS Business Service Authority to the NHSmail shared mailbox of each community pharmacy in England. The email contains a link to an invitation template for employees who need testing.

To meet the testing criteria staff or family members must either be:

  • An individual (adult or child) with COVID-19 symptoms living in the same household as a member of NHS staff or wider NHS family.

OR

  • A member of staff in the NHS family, with COVID-19 symptoms.

If PDA members working in community pharmacy in England or members of their family start to develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should advise their employer as soon as possible – individuals should be in the first three days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms at the time the swab is taken. These practical arrangements are linked to an employer arrangement, as such, the PDA  sought clarification from NHS England as to what arrangements can be utilised for self-employed locum pharmacists. We obtained confirmation from the department that locums can utilise the process to book a test directly.

From 24th April, key healthcare workers will also be able to book a test directly online. Visit Self-referral service for coronavirus.

Pharmacy contractors or their employees should not publish or share this invitation or the link to the CQC online portal, beyond employees who require testing – this includes not posting on social media.

The PDA understands that there are other locally arranged testing routes for community pharmacy staff in some parts of the country. Visit the PSNC website staff wellbeing and COVID-19 testing page for further information on national and local testing schemes.

Download the NHS E&I letter here

thumbnail of NHS E&I letter – 12 April 2020

COVID-19 testing for community pharmacy staff in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has given advice to Health Boards that the testing of key healthcare workers and their family members for Coronavirus should be put in place, this include community pharmacy teams being Category one key workers as classified by the Scottish Government. This was implemented at different times across the country as laboratory capacity varied.

Eligibility criteria for testing include: The individual must be:

  1. A health and social care (HSC) worker or live within the same household as one, subject to the following qualifications:
    1. The HSC worker must form part of a role that cannot be carried out from home.
    2. If the HSC worker is symptomatic: Only the HSC worker in the household is eligible for testing. No other member of the household is eligible.
    3. If the HSC worker is self-isolating because an adult (over 18) in their household is symptomatic, but the HSC worker is not, only the adult household member(s) is eligible to come to a test centre to receive a COVID-19 test. It is that household member(s) whose data must be collected and sent to the Scottish Government –with the HSC workers name noted. The HSC worker will not receive a test. If more than one household member is symptomatic, but not the HSC worker, then all household members should be tested.
    4. If the HSC worker is self-isolating for other reasons and is not themselves symptomatic: They are not eligible to be tested.
  2. Currently symptomatic
  3. Must be able to maintain household isolation during commute. Household isolation is defined as those member(s) a symptomatic HSC worker is currently isolating with.

Visit Community Pharmacy Scotland website https://www.cps.scot/cptesting for further information and update about how pharmacy teams access testing in each Health Board area.

COVID-19 testing for community pharmacy staff in Wales.

In Wales, a standard operating procedure (SOP) has been developed to provide guidance for all community pharmacy contractors requiring staff testing via the staff testing units (STUs). Furthermore, the Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething also announced the launch of an antibody blood test last month (March 28) for NHS frontline staff, including pharmacy workers, that will test if people had had the virus and “potentially” developed immunity.

Interim criteria for testing key frontline Healthcare Workers (HCWs):

Staff working from any of the key areas highlighted below or their family members who they live with who have symptoms can access the service:

a. Acute Medical Assessment Units

b. Emergency Departments

c. Critical Care Units/Intensive Care Units

d. Primary Care

e. EMS frontline NHS Ambulance staff

f. Maternity

The above criteria have been set by Public Health Wales (PHW) (March 2020) and should also allow for local discretion in application to other healthcare staff, social care staff and symptomatic household members of isolating asymptomatic healthcare staff.

Community Pharmacy staff are eligible to access this service under criteria D above.

Visit the Community Pharmacy Wales website for further information and update about the developed SOP and the testing scheme.

COVID-19 testing for community pharmacy staff in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland had also prioritised testing for healthcare workers, including pharmacy teams.

Eligibility criteria for testing include:

  • If the HCW is displaying COVID 19 symptoms.
  • If the HCW is self-isolating because someone in their household is displaying COVID 19 symptoms, and that person is over the age of 18 then they are eligible to take the test – not the HCW
  • If the HCW is self-isolating because an under 18 year old in their household is displaying symptoms then the HCW is eligible for testing.
  • If the HCW is self-isolating but neither a member of their household or the HCW are displaying symptoms, then the HCW is not eligible for a test.

Arranging for a test can be done either through:

  • Contacting the GP practice of the person with symptoms
  • Booking an appointment at one of the three drive-through test sites: Belfast SSE Arena, City of Derry Rugby Club or Craigavon MOT centre

Visit Health and Social Care Board website (section: COVID-19 Community Pharmacy Staff Testing Process) for further information and updates about the procedure and the testing scheme.

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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
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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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