Covid-19 safety measures must continue in pharmacies

The PDA are calling for safety measures, including mask wearing, to continue in pharmacies as the global pandemic continues.

Wed 7th July 2021 The PDA

Despite the UK Chief Medical Officer’s warning that we are still in a global pandemic with continuing increases in cases, hospitalisations, Long Covid and deaths, the Prime Minister has indicated that with very few exceptions, all Covid-19 safety measures will no longer be required in England from 19 July. Instead, it will be for everyone to judge what steps if any, they choose to take to prevent spreading the virus.

Through the pandemic the use of face masks, hand sanitisation, social distancing, perspex screens, limits on numbers of people present in smaller spaces and other measures have become regular features of interaction across society.  It is expected that hospital trusts will continue to require safety measures, including the wearing of masks and several trusts have already confirmed that will be the case.

However, the PDA is concerned that there could be a two-tier approach to safety in pharmacy if community pharmacies cease to require measures that will continue in other workplaces within the health sector. Community pharmacy premises are often small, with little space for social distancing. Many are not entirely a clinical space, with some being part of larger supermarkets or sharing floorspace with other retail activity. Entering a community pharmacy is generally part of a wider visit to the shopping area and if there are no masks worn for the other activity, it makes it more likely that people will visit a community pharmacy without a mask too.

While some members of the public can decide whether to engage with, or be near to, someone who is not wearing a mask, employees are contracted to be at work and will be faced with all patients and customers. Many visits to a pharmacy are essential for clinically vulnerable patients to access NHS services and these individuals must also be protected from those who may be asymptomatic.

Employers have a strict legal duty to maintain safe and healthy workplaces and the PDA is calling upon employers to show leadership and make it clear that community pharmacies are health settings that continue to require pandemic safety measures, including mask-wearing.

Pharmacists in England can be reassured that the current system for ordering PPE will continue in its current format for the foreseeable future. The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed to the PDA that the NHS portal for ordering supplies will remain in place to allow health and social care providers to access PPE for their workforce.

The union recognise that there may be added complexities for community pharmacy contractors, but believe that decisions should not be made unilaterally by those with commercial interests in the sector. Hence the PDA has written to the Pharmacy Minister, Jo Churchill, to facilitate tripartite discussions that can agree sensible core principles through discussion between employers, Government, and the trade union.

The PDA will engage similarly with the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland governments as they also confirm their approach for pandemic safety in the days and weeks ahead.

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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
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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