The PDA calls on community pharmacy employers to show leadership and require the wearing of masks in pharmacies

The PDA is calling for urgent action by employers after the UK government confirmed the ending of compulsory Covid-19 safety measures in England on 19th July 2021.

Tue 13th July 2021 The PDA

It has now been confirmed that the wearing of face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement in England after 19th July. However, they will still be “recommended” in circumstances such as when people come into contact with those they do not normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces, for example on public transport.

Over three quarters of 2,381 pharmacists that responded to a PDA survey over 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 survey respondents practice in community pharmacy.

Last week, the PDA highlighted concerns that there could be a confusing, two-tier approach to safety in England if some community pharmacies cease to require measures that will continue in other healthcare settings.

Community pharmacies can be found in a diverse range of premises, some are small, with little space for social distancing, while others can be based in supermarkets or larger retail sites.  Given the ongoing global pandemic and rising cases of the virus, the PDA believes that there needs to be a consistent approach taken in all healthcare settings to guidance to protect clinically vulnerable patients who make essential visits to access NHS services and provide safe working environments for pharmacy teams.

One member told the PDA, “In a community pharmacy where the pharmacist and dispensers are working in a very confined space for 8 or 9 hours a day, the risk of transmission will be elevated. Contact with customers, some of whom may be asymptomatic, therefore means the wearing of masks remains essential, and for any service requiring the confined space of a consultation room with a customer likewise”.

Pharmacy owners are responsible for safety on their premises and while some NHS Trusts have already confirmed that face coverings will continue to be required on their sites, the PDA is concerned that some community pharmacy employers may fail to require adequate safety measures and determine that neither their staff nor their customers need to wear masks as it may detract from their desired retail ambience.

A recent report in the Chemist and Druggist quoted Well Pharmacy saying that they “..appreciate that, once the restrictions are lifted, some customers may choose not to wear face coverings anymore and our teams will respect this”. The suggestion that safety measures may be left to “patient choice” is extraordinary and does not seem to consider the strict legal duty on employers to maintain safe and healthy workplaces.

Mark Pitt, Director of Defence Services at the PDA said; “We are still in the middle of a pandemic and employers will be held to account if they do not ensure a safe workplace. This is a critical time for pharmacy employers to demonstrate leadership and maintain the requirements for safety measures, including mask wearing, in their pharmacies. A consistent approach across the profession will help keep pharmacies a safe healthcare environment for patients and staff alike.

The Responsible Pharmacist’s role is to secure the safe and effective running of the registered pharmacy and the PDA will robustly support members who make an informed professional decision to enforce safety measures they feel are necessary

The government in Wales had 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”. It is also said to be considering whether to continue to require the wearing of face coverings by law in other settings, such as retail environments.

Scotland’s First Minister has indicated that face coverings are still likely to be required on public transport and in shops.

Any PDA members who are concerned that their employer is not taking adequate safety measures in their workplace should contact the PDA Service Centre.

 

*** UPDATE ***

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed today (13 July 2021) that face coverings will continue to be mandated in Scotland, “not just now but, in all likelihood, for some time to come”.

She also added that “Measures like the continued wearing of face coverings are important, not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to give protection and assurance to those amongst us who are particularly vulnerable and previously had to shield.

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