Pharmacy leaders have warned ministers and NHS officials that Test and Trace discrepancies could lead to widespread pharmacy closures for two weeks, risking timely supply of medicines to local communities.
Their warning comes following reports of several incidents where entire community pharmacy teams have been told by Test and Trace service to self-isolate following a single positive case within the pharmacy.
The pharmacy bodies note that the current guidance from Public Health England and NHS England and NHS Improvement is that with the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other measures to mitigate the spread of infection, pharmacy teams do not necessarily need to self-isolate.
However, some contact tracers are classifying pharmacies as retail settings, rather than a healthcare establishment, and this is leading them to apply different rules than they do for GP practices.
In a letter sent on Thursday (October 8), pharmacy organisations asked public health minister Jo Churchill to urgently intervene for a consistent approach across the country and allow community pharmacy to be treated as a healthcare establishment by NHS contact tracers.
The letter states: “We are concerned that if this continues, with the added pressure of pharmacy staff self-isolating due to their exposure to Covid-19 in the general population, we will soon have a situation where people will be unable to access their medicines because of widespread temporary (two-week) pharmacy closures.
“Other critical services, such as the community pharmacy NHS flu vaccination service which has already seen more than a million people vaccinated by pharmacists this year, would also suffer.”
Chief executives of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) signed the letter to the minister.