The Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) said in its open letter to health secretary Matt Hancock that pharmacists are “as exposed [to the virus] as GPs, if not more so”, and that the sector has become the “front line” healthcare service since the outbreak.
The organisation is “concerned” that pharmacies are not being provided with “necessary PPE to protect teams”, and that advice given by Public Health England (PHE) “is not sufficient” it said.
“This failure to protect pharmacy staff cannot be allowed to continue,” the PDA added. It acknowledged that some pharmacy branches are encouraging staff to wear PPE, although pointed out that some are not.
The organisation asked Mr Hancock to “end this inconsistent approach to the protection of the pharmacy workforce”.
It urged him to “ensure that all pharmacies receive sufficient quantity and quality PPE to protect them from infection and…that PHE revises its guidance to take account of the risks now being faced by pharmacists in reality”.
Official guidance is to “maintain distance”
Community pharmacists should only wear PPE if it is unavoidable to be in a room with a patient suspected of having the virus, according to standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by NHS England & NHS Improvement on March 22.
Pharmacists should “maintain distance rather than wearing PPE all the time”, NHS England & NHS Improvement deputy director for pharmacy commissioning Dr Jill Loader said in a webinar advising community pharmacy on the COVID-19 outbreak on Wednesday (March 25).
PSNC pushing for PPE in pharmacies
Chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) Simon Dukes said the negotiating body is “pushing” NHS England and PHE to “re-visit their guidelines and guidance on how frontline pharmacy should be using PPE” in a digital press conference yesterday (March 26).
In doing so, Mr Dukes hopes to “get more of that equipment out to the frontline”, he said.