In an updated guidance, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has asked the community pharmacies to ensure that the PHE local health protection teams consider community pharmacy contact tracing cases.
The PSNC’s latest guidance follows recent discussions it had with NHS England & NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and Public Health England (PHE).
“If the local team don’t make the initial contact with the pharmacy, contractors should escalate cases to the team, or call the team direct. This may not be necessary if a contractor is satisfied with the decision without full assessment,” the pharmacy negotiator said.
In its update on Monday (October 12), the PSNC asked pharmacy staff not to give their colleagues’ names to NHS Test and Trace if they test positive for coronavirus, but to provide the contact details of the pharmacy.
“This is because any names given will be entered automatically into NHS Test and Trace systems with no assessment of whether they are close contacts – this is difficult for the local health protection team to ‘overturn’ if its assessment finds that pharmacy colleagues are not close contacts of the individual,” the PSNC added.
The PSNC has suggested that community pharmacies continue to take all appropriate steps to make the pharmacy Covid-secure, so far as practicable, including social distancing and proper use of appropriate PPE.
The closer staff are to each other working in the pharmacy, the longer the time staff are together and the greater any other risk factors for transmission, the more likely that the local health protection team will determine that there was a recent close contact and staff should self-isolate for the required period of time, if one member of staff tests positive for coronavirus, the PSNC update said.
Contractors may wish to consider the use of split staff teams to avoid the risk of all staff in a pharmacy being asked to self-isolate or consider other appropriate measures.
The staff members who have recent close contacts with those outside the pharmacy may be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, but this should not affect other pharmacy staff unless they subsequently test positive for coronavirus.
PSNC has been working with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) to clarify how the NHS Test and Trace programme applies to community pharmacy to help reduce the need for large numbers of pharmacies needing to close temporarily due to Covid.