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RPS: Pharmacy staff should follow Covid-19 infection control procedures

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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has recommended that pharmacists and pharmacy staff should follow Covid-19 infection control procedures including self isolation.

Last month, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) had raised its concern over Well Pharmacy’s policy of allowing Covid-19 positive staff to work in pharmacies, risking the health of colleagues and patients.

RPS said: “Pharmacies are health care environments which are accessed by patients who may be vulnerable to Covid infection. It is essential that mitigations are observed to prevent the spread of Covid by both the public and by pharmacy staff in all health care environments, including community pharmacies and other patient-facing pharmacy services such as in general practices and hospitals.

“Pharmacists and pharmacy staff have a professional responsibility to follow infection control procedures to protect patients. This includes self-isolating if they have tested positive for Covid-19, or have symptoms of a respiratory infection and high temperature. Equally, the public should continue to wear face coverings in pharmacies.”

After being brought to PDA’s attention by its member on symptomatic employees being allowed to attend a branch, the association sought a clarification from Well Pharmacy on allowing Covid positive staff to work in pharmacies.

The PDA said: “The pharmacy superintendent has since confirmed that is in line with company policy which states, “isolation is a personal choice” and confirms that such an approach “is in line with the Government Living with Covid guidance”.

The association reminded Responsible Pharmacists (RP) that they play an essential role in deciding what is safe for patients and colleagues in the pharmacy, when faced with staff members at work who have tested positive for Covid-19.

“Regrettably the policy of at least one major pharmacy multiple means that Covid-19 positive staff are permitted to attend work, which has the potential to expose vulnerable patients and staff to risk of infection,” said PDA.

The PDA share the concerns of members that vulnerable patients and vulnerable colleagues who have a reasonable expectation of rigorous infection control procedures in any healthcare setting, could be exposed to the Covid-19 virus by the policy of permitting positive Covid-19 employees to attend work.

“The policy of this pharmacy multiple appears at odds with the latest NHS Guidance on Managing healthcare staff with symptoms of a respiratory infection or a positive COVID-19 test result which states: All healthcare staff who have received a positive COVID-19 test result, regardless of whether they have symptoms, are advised not to attend work for 5 days. They should follow guidance for people with a positive COVID-19 test result Patient-facing healthcare staff can return to work when they have had 2 consecutive negative LFD test results (taken at least 24 hours apart).”

The association also assured that pharmacists who raise legitimate concerns about infection risks to their employer as set out above will be protected by whistleblowing legislation. The whistleblowing provisions protect any ‘worker’ who makes a ‘protected disclosure’ of information, from being dismissed or penalised by their employer because of the disclosure.

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