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NHS England guidance recommends pharmacies appoint coronavirus lead

NHS England has released coronavirus guidance for community pharmacy, including advice on isolating patients.

Pharmacies should appoint a coronavirus lead and prepare a patient “support pack” as part of preparations for dealing with the outbreak, NHS England has said.

The lead will take charge of co-ordinating “activities, training, preparation and implementation” of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) standard operating procedure for community pharmacy, published by NHS England last week (February 27).

Pharmacies should also establish “a daily routine” as part of which all staff are updated on the latest travel advice shared by the government, NHS England said.

“Suitable isolation space”

Although NHS England believes it is “unlikely” that patients with “suspected COVID-19” will present at a pharmacy, it recommends that pharmacies identify at least one “suitable isolation space or room” for patients thought to have the virus.

If there is no “suitable isolation room”, pharmacies should identify an isolated area in the pharmacy for this patient group. The area should maintain a “two-metre space from other patients and staff” and needs to be somewhere that can be “cordoned off”.

Once a patient with suspected coronavirus has been transferred from the premises, the space or room “should not be used, the door should remain shut, with windows open and the air conditioning switched off, until it has been cleaned with detergent and disinfectant”, according to the guidance.

Pharmacies are also advised to “de-clutter and remove non-essential furnishings and items”, as this will ease “decontamination” after a patient with suspected coronavirus has left the premises.

NHS England also suggested pharmacies prepare a patient “support pack” that could include “bottled water, disposable tissues, [and a] clinical waste bag”.

Communication channels

NHS England recommends pharmacies make a phone available in the isolation room to facilitate patient contact with NHS 111.

However, patients should ideally call NHS 111 from their own mobile phone, as the call handlers might need to call them back, NHS England added.

A card or sign with “pharmacy contact details, email, telephone numbers, pharmacy location and post code” as well as the name of the lead pharmacist in attendance should also be present in the designated area, according to the guidance.

“While waiting for advice from NHS 111, establish a routine for regular communication with the patient/patient group”, the commissioner said in the guidance. This could be done “via remote means”, such as over the phone, Skype or FaceTime, or through a “knock and conversation through the closed door”.

As of today (March 2), 40 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the UK.

Do you agree with the NHS England guidance?

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