“Public health advice continues to emphasise social distancing is the most effective protection against the spread of COVID-19,”, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland and Pharmacy Forum Northern Ireland said in a joint statement yesterday (March 30).
Where a distance of at least two metres cannot be achieved, pharmacies should close their doors and control entry to the premises, “so that two metres of distance can be maintained”, the pharmacy bodies said.
They stressed that pharmacy teams should have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) “for specific instances where it is a necessary addition to social distancing measures, for example when working in small dispensaries”.
Kiran Patel, pharmacy owner at Beautychem Pharmacy in north London, told C+D today (March 31) he believes this statement was issued too late.
“GPs and dentists were told very early on that they could close their doors and let people in one at a time. We're at the front line even more than GPs and we get this advice three weeks late.
“Why did it take them three weeks to come out with this statement?” askedMr Patel.
Kent local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) CEO Shilpa Shah told C+D today that pharmacies in her area had reported that it was “too difficult” to achieve social distancing.
There are services, such as the emergency hormonal contraception service and methadone supervision that are not possible to keep offerinf as it is not possible to keep two metres away from patients, Ms Shah said.
“This pandemic has shown to us that services are the first thing that drops everywhere because you can't maintain social distancing,” she said.
Perspex screens and barriers
“When you're handing out medication, you cannot always maintain a two-metre distance”, Ms Shah said.
While many multiples have the resources to install Perspex screens in their branches, independents might struggle to introduce them, which is why Ms Shah said the installation and costs should be paid for nationally.
Mr Patel installed some protective screens on the counters at his pharmacy. He also introduced posters reminding patients to keep at a distance from one another, which he devised in collaboration with pharmacies in his area.
A yellow line on the floor, two metres away from the counter that patients are not allowed to cross, was also introduced. However, due to patients overstepping it, the pharmacy is now using a table as a physical barrier, to help patients keep a safe distance away from the pharmacy team.