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COVID-19: Pharmacies to use masks if 'unable' to keep social distance

PPE guidance: wear mask if "unable to maintain two metres social distance”
PPE guidance: wear mask if "unable to maintain two metres social distance”

Pharmacy teams should wear fluid-resistant surgical masks if social distancing cannot be maintained, according to new guidance applicable across the UK.

The updated guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), which was published yesterday (April 2), reflects the fact that COVID-19 is “now widespread in the community” and clinicians are more likely to come in contact with patients with “minimal or no symptoms”.

This guidance was issued jointly by the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England, NHS England, Public Health Wales, Public Health Agency Northern Ireland and Health Protection Scotland.

The sessional use of fluid-resistant (Type IIR) surgical masks is recommended in pharmacy when “working in an area with possible or confirmed case(s) and unable to maintain two metres social distance”, according to specific guidelines for pharmacy teams.

However, “if social distancing of two metres is maintained, there is no indication for PPE in a pharmacy setting”, the guidance said.

The updated guidance comes as pharmacists are reporting difficulties sourcing PPE through the national supply disruption response line and from wholesalers.

“Potentially exposed”

Commenting on the guidance, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said that although patients with COVID-19 symptoms have been asked not to go to pharmacies, some “are not following that guidance and pharmacy team members are potentially being exposed to possible or confirmed cases”.

Even if pharmacy staff decide to wear face masks as prescribed by the guidance, PSNC reiterated that “it is imperative that social distancing and self-isolation, where appropriate, continue to be practised and hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing, continue to be followed”.

Earlier this week, pharmacy bodies asked pharmacies to consider how social distancing can be achieved. They suggested that when it is not possible to maintain the two-metre distance, pharmacies should close their doors and control entry to the premises.

Will you start wearing a face mask in your pharmacy?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

'if unable to keep social distance'?? How many of us work in dispensaries that are over 2 metres wide? It's totally impossible to keep social distance in a pharmacy even without taking customers into account. And the conflicting information we are getting regarding masks is ridiculous - some say yes, some say no point, some say makes things potentially worse! We are ALL going to come into contact with this virus at some point in the future because it's going nowhere now - the genie is out of the bottle so will we have to wear PPE permanently? (I say 'we', I mean 'you' cos I'm outta here!) 

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

On the latest GP webinar, all patients are to be treated as potentially infected an all face to face interactions require eye protection face mask gloves and apron. Gloves and apron to be changed with every patient...
Looks like we will be needing a lot more PPE

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Your life is not worth the same as a GP. Stay safe  folks. 

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

But where can we get the masks from???


Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Most dispenseries are small and so it is impossible to maintain social distancing between staff members let alone the general public.  Let's face it, even staff members could be displaying minimal or no symptoms.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

To be fair, there's a lot of dispensary staff I've come across that would benefit from the use of face masks but not because of coronavirus.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I was going to comment the same thing. Have you seen your standard dispensary size? Two metres? That's pretty much from the back of the room to the door in some of these places!

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

Who is responsible for providing pharmacy with PPE including face masks? As in General Practice this is being supplied by PHE.

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