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RPS seeks government assurance on tests and trace, PPE and test access

The RPS has sought assurances from pharmacy minister Jo Churchill on access to the PPE portal and antibody tests and the implications of the test and trace scheme for pharmacy.

In a letter to Ms Churchill earlier this week (June 2), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) asked for confirmation that pharmacy teams and other primary care healthcare professionals will have “equal access” to the recently launched personal protective equipment (PPE) portal.

Pharmacies were excluded in the initial phase of the rollout of the portal, which launched on May 26. The RPS had previously sought confirmation that community pharmacy would be able to access the portal, in a letter from RPS president Sandra Gidley to the pharmacy minister on April 23, the representative body said this week.

“Can you confirm the date that pharmacists will be able to access the scheme?” Ms Gidley and RPS England chair Professor Claire Anderson asked in their letter to Ms Churchill on June 2.

C+D revealed in April that many pharmacists were finding it difficult to get hold of face masks from wholesalers, despite Alliance Healthcare, AAH and Phoenix UK being sent fluid-resistant surgical masks from the DH’s stockpile on April 9. Pharmacies also told C+D they were struggling to receive PPE through the national supply disruption response line.

NHS test and trace

Ms Gidley and Professor Anderson said “urgent clarification” is needed on the implications of the NHS test and trace scheme for the pharmacy sector, as it could cause disruptions to community pharmacy services should a pharmacy be forced to close for two weeks.

Under the programme, anyone who has been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus will be asked to isolate for 14 days.

“Would staff in a pharmacy or GP surgery, often working in close proximity, all have to self-isolate for 14 days if a patient or member of the team was tested with COVID-19?”, Ms Gidley and Professor Anderson asked.

Access to antibody tests

C+D reported last week that NHS staff in England, including community pharmacy teams, will be given priority access to COVID-19 antibody tests.

However, an NHS letter on May 25 said that “each NHS region is coordinating its own specific arrangements to roll out antibody testing to NHS staff”. This has prompted the RPS to ask the pharmacy minister for “confirmation that all staff in pharmacy teams who want an antibody test will be offered one”. Ms Gidley and Professor Anderson said they were looking for assurance from Ms Churchill that antibody tests will be “made available to all health and care staff as quickly as possible”.

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