Employers’ representative bodies asked to work together to maintain safety standards

The PDA has written to the three main community pharmacy employer bodies: AIMp, CCA and NPA to remind them of their members' responsibilities regarding safety and invite them to work together to ensure adequate safety measures across the sector in England.

Wed 14th July 2021 The PDA

While mask wearing and other safety measures will continue to be required at community pharmacies in Scotland and Wales, the UK government has decided to end almost all compulsory safety measures in England from Monday 19 July.

The PDA has therefore written to the main representatives of community pharmacy employers to remind them of their members’ responsibilities regarding safety and invite them to work together to ensure adequate safety measures across the sector in England.

The PDA letters say:

 

As you will be aware from the announcement on Monday, it has now been confirmed that the wearing of face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement after 19th July in England.  However, masks will still be recommended in circumstances such as when people meet those they do not normally encounter in enclosed and crowded spaces.

The government in Wales has already confirmed that face masks will remain mandatory in some public places such as public transport and health and social care settings “until Covid-19 is no longer a public health threat” and therefore your members’ will continue to require mask wearing in that jurisdiction.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has also confirmed that face coverings will continue to be mandated in Scotland, “not just now but, in all likelihood, for some time to come”.

Furthermore, an overwhelming number of hospital trusts have already indicated that they intend to require staff and patients to continue wearing masks, a further indication that there remains significant concern about the risks of infection in health care.

More than half of our 32,000 members work in community pharmacy, and many are already raising concerns and want clarification about future pandemic safety measures in their workplaces. We believe that reaching an agreed sector standard as to how best to proceed in community pharmacy would be helpful and would like to work with you to reach such an agreement.  This would not only reassure pharmacy teams who need to be sure they are working in a safe and healthy environment, but also protect the millions of patients that will come to a community pharmacy each week as this global pandemic continues.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has also reminded pharmacy owners that they need to carefully consider the relevant guidance from governments, health and safety requirements and their standards for registered pharmacies, to help them ensure they continue to provide COVID-safe environments as the pandemic continues. They are also asking the public to continue to follow COVID-19 safety measures that remain in place in pharmacies to protect themselves, their communities and pharmacy staff.

Regardless of the UK government statements on their minimum safety measures, community pharmacy contractors are responsible for the safety within their own premises.  With cases predicted to rise to over 100,000 a day in the coming weeks, many vulnerable patients will attend the pharmacy with complex medical conditions and need to be protected from members of the public that may be asymptomatic carriers. Pharmacy staff too need to be protected for as you will know, whilst pharmacists and their teams worked tirelessly and kept the pharmacies open during the most difficult periods of the crisis, several pharmacists died during the pandemic because they were exposed to Covid-19 while working.

Over three quarters of the 2,381 pharmacists that responded to a PDA survey in the last few days believe that all staff in their workplace should be required to wear masks, and almost 82% think that patients and others attending a health care setting such as a pharmacy, GP practice or hospital should also be required to wear a mask. More than two thirds of those taking part in the survey practice in community pharmacy.

The suggestion reported in the media that some contractors will leave critical safety measures to each patient’s “personal choice” is beyond extraordinary and does not seem to consider the strict legal duty on employers to maintain safe and healthy workplaces or that action can be taken against them if a safe working environment is not preserved.  As a trade union we would much rather prevent instances of unsafe working conditions, but your members should have no doubt that we will support action against unsafe employers if such situations do occur.

Within the role and responsibilities of the Responsible Pharmacist[1] (RP) is the duty to secure the safe and effective running of the pharmacy and, if the RP believes that a pharmacy is not safe, or patients are at risk, then they will need to act.  This could involve limiting the number of people entering the pharmacy, requiring patients to wear a mask, or even deciding to close a pharmacy if it cannot remain open safely.  However, while such steps would be entirely proper, leaving it to the pharmacist to decide and enforce adequate safety measures in this way would potentially increase the risk of a conflict arising with those who may rely on the government’s decision to remove the requirement. Once again, the PDA will support action against employers who fail to protect their staff from violence in pharmacies.

We believe that the establishment of sensible core principles around the wearing of face coverings in healthcare settings, including pharmacies can guarantee consistency and clarity for people visiting those premises, whilst ensuring that pharmacy businesses can continue to operate successfully and that the safety of both the public and of staff is protected.

I would welcome your thoughts on this matter as there is a small window of opportunity to provide much needed leadership and clarification on this vitally important matter of health and safety for the pharmacy workforce and the people they serve.

Kind Regards

 

Mark Koziol M.R.Pharm.S.

Chairman

[1] Medicines Act 1968 (as amended by the Health Act 2006) and the Medicines (Pharmacies) (Responsible Pharmacist) Regulations 2008.

 

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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
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