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33 ways pharmacy teams can handle the COVID-19 crisis

“Put a notice on your front door for patients to read before they enter”

Preparing a list of key phone numbers and limiting the sale of products like paracetamol are some of the ways pharmacy teams can combat the pressure of COVID-19, says Reena Barai

I created this guide of all the things my pharmacy team needs to consider following the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m thinking about these things and so must my community pharmacy colleagues.

I’m conscious it is a living document and will need adapting as the days, weeks and even months go on. However, community pharmacists should consider preparing for the pandemic by implementing each of these actions.

Maintaining social distancing
  1. Put a notice on your front door informing patients of the latest advice on COVID-19 and ensure this information is up to date
  2. Create a barrier around the pharmacy counter of one to two metres. Some pharmacies in Europe have installed plexiglass screens, like in banks
  3. Create clear aisles in your pharmacy for patients to wait in, so they can maintain distance between themselves
  4. Restrict the number of people who can enter your pharmacy at one time
Looking after staff
  1. Create rotas for staff so they aren’t all patient-facing at the same time or all of the time
  2. Consider the safety of delivery drivers, especially if they are delivering medications to those who are self-isolating
  3. Assess whether you have the capacity to provide an increased delivery service
  4. Plan ahead for the possibility of members of your staff falling ill
  5. Keep phone numbers for locums and fromer members of staff on hand in case you need cover
  6. Ensure your staff wash their hands regularly
Handling Patients
  1. Sign the back of prescriptions for patients to reduce the risk of transferring germs
  2. Re-schedule any face-to-face patient consultations
  3. Use the telephone to provide consultations for services where possible
  4. Increase the frequency of cleaning in the pharmacy, paying attention to public areas such as doors and counter tops
  5. Take contactless payments instead of cash payments
  6. Ask patients who come in with a paper prescription to nominate a pharmacy for their scripts to be sent to electronically, in case GP surgeries have to close
  7. Figure out how you will contact your local GP practice teams if they do close and you have a query with a prescriber who may be working from home
  8. Limit the sale of some of the over-the-counter products like paracetamol to ensure that there is always some available for those who need it
  9. Consider how to sustain adequate stock control of essential medication in light of the current medicine shortages
  10. Plan how you will deal with requests to supply medication early for patients who are concerned that they need to self-isolate
  11. Draw up a strategy for how your delivery service will respond to increased demand
  12. Consider whether you can ask patients to send a friend, neighbour or relative to collect their medicine instead of delivering it
  13. Decide how you will communicate with your patients about pharmacy updates by using social media, text, email, a website, leaflets or other means
  14. Consider which of your patients are most vulnerable and how you can support them
Keeping the business alive
  1. Review your business continuity plan and ensure all staff are aware of it
  2. Discuss business continuity plans with your GP practice teams and pharmacies. Your primary care network community pharmacy lead may be able to co-ordinate this
  3. Run through a mock scenario with your team where you have to close the pharmacy and consider all the people who would need to be informed
  4. Get in touch with your insurer to check what is covered
  5. Find contacts for companies that can do a deep clean
  6. Have the details of your local health protection team handy
  7. Find out the contact email addresses for all GP practices and key members of staff
  8. Work with your practices to change patients over to repeat dispensing to allow flexibility of supply over the next few months
  9. Ensure regular breaks for you and your team

Reena Barai is community pharmacist and National Pharmacy Association board member

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.


Neelm Saini, Community pharmacist


Reena - great article that pulls all of your thinking together and thank-you for sharing.  Reena has been a front runner on twitter - amongst many others - who have shared their experience and actions they have taken in the pharmacies before any pharmacy bodies did or employers even got to their staff and branches. I took some of what I did to protect myself and my team from people like Reena as it gave me confidence that my thinking was aligned to another colleague and other like her. This is not about self-promotion , this is called leadership .. something IMO that hasn’t been forthcoming to support us on the ground. 





Sunil Patel, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

One way would  be to stop self promotion during these crazy times, don't you think? Amazing how when things are so difficult some people take advantage of the situation to promote themselves. Pharmacy needs to be more joined up and mobilised rather than individuals looking for opportunities to play heroes to get publicity. 

The Pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist

The issue is pharmacists do not self promote enough whereas other healthcare professionals do hence why we get overlooked for recognition and funding.

Thomas Cox, Editorial

Hi Sunil, C+D asked Reena Barai if we could publish her methods after noticing they got a lot of traction on Twitter, not the other way around. Pharmacy professionals are hungry for guidance on how to handle the COVID-19 outbreak. We should encourage anyone who has any to come forward.  

Sunil Patel, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Thank you for explaining. My comment was also taking into account what has been circulated around and not just this particular article. What is the role of our professional bodies to issue robust official guidance rather than picking up from social media? 

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

33 ways! If you have time to read (and perhaps even action 50% of) all this then you clearly have too much time on your hands, I’ll give you ONE way.... get some more staff in, if you can find any!

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