Layer 1

DH: Public should wear face coverings in pharmacies

The government is encouraging people to make their own face masks
The government is encouraging people to make their own face masks

The government has advised members of the public to wear a face covering in “enclosed public spaces”, including pharmacies.

The public is now being advised to wear a face covering in situations where “it could be difficult to follow social distance measures and keep two metres apart,” a Department of Health and Social Care (DH) spokesperson told C+D yesterday (May 11). This might include pharmacies, the spokesperson added.

Face coverings can “help reduce the risk of transmission”, the government said yesterday. Having reviewed the latest scientific evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), it is now advising the use of face protection in enclosed public spaces.

Chief medical officer and SAGE member professor Chris Whitty said that wearing a face covering “may have some benefit in reducing the likelihood that a person with the infection passes it on”.

Public Health England (PHE) had previously not recommended that people wear face masks in public. In January, PHE said that while the wearing of face masks “plays a very important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals, there is very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of these clinical settings”.

Availability of PPE

The government’s new advice also discourages people from purchasing “medical grade masks, which are prioritised for healthcare workers working in more high-risk environments where the risk is greatest”.

Instead, people can make their own face masks at home or wear scarves or other textile items to cover their face, according to the DH.

The government will not be supplying the public with face masks as “at home items and fabrics readily available on the market can be used” to make them, the DH said.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association director Paul Day told C+D today (May 12) that “urging the public not to buy medical grade masks emphasises concerns about the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies.”

Amish Patel, managing director at Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield, Kent, told C+D today that he welcomes the new advice on wearing masks in public. Following the advice could be “essential to maintaining safety” and helping the UK avoid a second wave of COVID-19, he said.

However, he questions the availability of face masks and the DH’s decision to encourage the public to make their own.

“I don’t agree with that element and question what evidence they have of its effectiveness,” he says. “As a minimum, the government needs to improve [its] efforts for everyone to be wearing a surgical mask.”


Commenting on the DH’s new advice on face coverings, Mr Day argued that “just reminding patients to wear masks will not be enough”.

Each pharmacy employer or manager should “listen carefully to the team before agreeing with them what measures they need to take in those particular premises to ensure the safety of employees”, he said.

Managers should later share any arrangement with the rest of the team and, “as appropriate”, with patients, he added.

Too late

The DH said that evidence from the World Health Organisation had shown that “where masks were recommended for prolonged periods of time” some people were not following social distancing policies or “good hand washing practices”.

But, as “England has demonstrated strong adherence to social distancing”, it decided to still recommend that people wear face coverings.

However, Graham Phillips, director of the Manor Pharmacy group, told C+D today that although he welcomes the advice, people should have been asked to wear a face covering at the start of the pandemic in the UK.

Social distancing

Pharmacies have already been working to implement social distancing on their premises, to protect both patients and staff.

This has involved, in some cases, the introduction of Perspex screens, physical barriers and signage on the floor.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Sandra Gidley told C+D today that the organisation is “currently actively considering this issue to see how best we can support pharmacy teams to ensure they keep themselves and the public safe”.

Do you welcome the DH's advice?

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

Absolutely hate wearing them! Hot and uncormfortable, find it difficult to hear what people are saying when they mumble behind a face mask and so far I have ended up with a headache each time! Not convinced of the value of them either but.... wearing them as a courtesy to other staff members who want me to wear one and are convinced of their value.


Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

The really annoying part of this is that the Government is saying 'should'. Why not give us clear guidance and say 'must'. At least we'd know where we stand then. I would absolutely hate wearing them too but if it was compulsory I would. Given that it isn't, then I'm afraid I'm not.

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

All of this is just so confusing!

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Face masks/coverings were useless 8 weeks ago.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

And they probably still are......

I MIGHT wear one if I can find one that fits comfortably and doesn't saw my ears off after about half an hour but realistically, what's the point when most other people don't and it's pretty much generally agreed they are as much use as a fart in the wind in terms of stopping you getting it.

Conor T, Community pharmacist

A patient kindly made us some cloth masks, she walked past the day after, saw we weren't wearing them and started banging on the door and losing her ****! Mad times

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Pharmacy in a nutshell, Lee!

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

Thanks for censoring the comment and hiding the truth from everyone. Such a useless magazine and a shame on the profession. Bye I'll not have a single read on any of your articles anymore. 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I think it might have been the f word in the link that caused the post to be removed, not a cover-up!

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

""Bye I'll not have a single read on any of your articles anymore.""

Did anyone from C&D send you an invite (or even BEG) to read their articles?? Just a thought.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Got to say, I was never an advocate of masks but now everyone is out mixing again, I'm changing my mind, but I want a nice interesting one so I can still look my same old uber-cool self.......

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

*This comment has been deleted for not complying with C+D's community principles*

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Tell you what - all human life is on these pages - theres a geezer, Angry Pharmacist I think he's called, who is saying there IS no virus and providing links to websites for that. Personally I think he's a dangerously deluded crackpot and ABC DEF is spot on but still, its interesting to see.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

But is it better to use Plenty (as in Juan Shit does plenty) because that won't dissolve into papier mache as you breathe? These are the important questions that need answers! (but I do agree with you - if EVERYONE wore masks we'd control it better, but the East Asians seem to be much more compliant than we are. In this country there will always be that bolshy 'I'm not doing what I'm told' element, which is not a good thing. Does it show us up as a selfish country because mask wearing is more about protecting others rather than yourself? Probably.)

Job of the week

Support Pharmacist
Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Heartl
up to £47,500 dependent on hours (30-40 hours flexible)