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The Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) says necessary safety measures must be taken before pausing the Covid-19 Test and Trace app in community pharmacy settings.

The PDA has advised all pharmacy staff members to only pause their Test and Trace apps, if a satisfactory Covid-19 risk assessment has been completed and adequate PPE measures are in place.

The PDA’s latest advice follows recent instructions published on NHS website which suggested healthcare workers should pause their Test and Trace app if they start working in a healthcare building such as a hospital or GP surgery.

The advice aims to prevent healthcare workers unnecessarily being told to self-isolate by the Test and Trace app after spending time near someone with Covid-19, when appropriate PPE has been worn in a safe working environment.

“The approach is being taken by the PSNC and all of the other contractor representative bodies such as, NPA, CCA and AIMp is that as a key part of NHS primary care services, community pharmacies should be considered as healthcare buildings and should be treated in the same way as hospitals or GP surgeries,” the PDA pointed out.

“They argue that community pharmacy teams should also be encouraged to pause their Test and Trace apps when they come to work as this would limit the disruption that would otherwise be caused to the pharmacy businesses if staff were told to self-isolate.”

The PDA said that whilst unnecessary disruption of the community pharmacy service would be detrimental to the public, from the perspective of patient and staff safety, it has concerns over a direct comparison being drawn between a hospital, a GP surgery and community pharmacy.

“Such a comparison would only be valid if the levels of protection from Covid-19 are the same as those implemented in hospitals and GP surgeries. However, the PDA believes this is currently not the case,” PDA added.

In the case of GP surgeries, most of them are now requiring patients to observe the same measures as seen in hospitals and are encouraging patients wherever possible to contact the GP virtually. Such risk mitigation arrangements are not in place in many community pharmacies where PDA members report considerable variations in the measures that are in place.

“Questions over PPE measures are of concern, before even considering the concerns of community pharmacy staff working in close proximity in the confines of a cramped pharmacy, in some cases with inadequate PPE compounded by poorly ventilated premises,” the PDA noted.

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