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Pharmacist’s COVID-19 action points go viral

Ms Barai has put together, and implemented, a list of COVID-19 pharmacy action points
Ms Barai has put together, and implemented, a list of COVID-19 pharmacy action points

A community pharmacist has created a list of ideas to help pharmacies cope with COVID-19, with the document widely shared on social media by colleagues in the UK and overseas.

On March 15, Reena Barai – owner of S G Barai Pharmacy in Sutton, Surry, shared a list of considerations pharmacy teams might want to put into practice to help them cope with the additional pressure the COVID-19 pandemic is putting on the sector.

 “I'm a grassroots pharmacist. I work in my pharmacy six days a week. For me, the operational issues are massive. I have to [ask myself] ‘Can I open? How do I open? What are the things I need to consider? How do I keep my staff safe? How do I keep myself safe? How do I get my patients safe? I think that's what made me create the list”, she told C+D last week (March 17).

Points covered in the two-page document include considering limiting the number of people allowed into the pharmacy at any one time; giving thought to how to train new members of staff to get them up to speed quickly; using phone consultations for services when possible; and thinking about how to keep in touch with your local GP practice if it closes.

Read Ms Barai's list of 33 ways community pharmacists can deal with COVID-19 here.

A sign warning patients to keep a safe distance in Reena Barai's pharmacy, one of the suggestions she listed in her document

The document proved very popular on social media, a response Ms Barai said she had not anticipated.

“I've had loads of emails from people asking ‘can you please share a copy of it so that I can amend and add things to it?’. That is exactly why I created it for,” she explained.

Ms Barai is still welcoming feedback from pharmacy colleagues, explaining that this is an “evolving document”. Anyone wishing to share their ideas can drop her an email at [email protected]

Her document attracted international interest too, including from pharmacists based in Australia.

Inspired by Italian pharmacies

“I've learned a lot from looking at what's happening in Italy, and other countries that are in lockdown,” Ms Barai said.

She looked at what was being shared on social media, for instance, and decided that the UK needed to think ahead.

Italian pharmacists Luigi and Massimiliano Pizzini, father and son owners of Farmacie Pizzini in Mestre in northern Italy, installed plexiglass barriers on their pharmacy counter to ensure a safe distance between the pharmacy team and its customers.

Luigi Pizzini told C+D that when they installed the plexiglass, it attracted interest from local supermarkets that subsequently said they were planning to do the same. “Community pharmacies became the first port of call for citizens”, Mr Pizzini said.

Farmacie Pizzini is located just a few kilometres from Vo Euganeo, one of the small towns originally at the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in northern Italy.

Plexiglass barriers in one of Farmacie Pizzini's branches

Elsewhere in Italy, the outbreak forced pharmacists to get creative in response to the shortage of hand gels and face masks.

Marcello Vitone, who works as a pharmacist in the small town of Capurso in the Apulia region of southern Italy, worked with a makeshift face mask made of baking paper for four days, before a woman living locally donated three reusable fabric face masks that she had made herself.

Pharmacies in Italy also started producing their own hand gel in response to the growing demand from patients, and the difficulty they found in souring the product.

However, Mr Vitone told C+D that in his case, production came to a halt when the products essential to making the hand gel – alcohol and small bottles – also went out of stock.

Read Ms Barai's list of 33 ways for pharmacists to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to COVID-19, workers across UK pharmacy are under great pressure right now. If you would like to find out how you can help, take a look at current vacancies in and around your location. All levels of pharmacy professionals are needed.

Would you like to contribute to Reena Barai's ideas?

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist


I don't care what PHE and whoever chief medical officer are saying against wearing masks. They have 0 experience in tackling a pandemic at this scale and have not a single clue what damage they are doing by sending such message across to the public, and I strongly suspect there is a political element in it not to cause public panic as there aren't enough masks out there for everyone. I am wearing my own mask to work every single day since last week and there is no way stopping me doing it, and I strongly encourage all colleagues to do the same.

Studies from 17 years ago from the second-hardest hit country during the SARS outbreak have shown ''Wearing a mask can give a person dealing with SARS patients in hospital up to 13 times more protection compared with not wearing one'', so pick your choice to wear one or not. Think about your family, your kids, your parents, your loved ones - do you want to carry the virus home and infect them and risk them dying from it? Or would you rather take extra precautionary measures which may help to minimise that possibility? Your call.

Feel free to downvote this if you disagree, but time will tell who is right and who is wrong. For those who got enlightened by this, there is no need to thank me. Thank instead those healthcare professionals who sacrificed their lives 17 years ago for us to come up with such data, and to learn from it to keep us alive 17 years later.

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