A leading pharmacy body has called on pharmacy employers and their representative organisations to ensure that pharmacies are prepared and ready to give their support to the government’s Covid-19 track and trace measures.
Supporting the government’s track and trace strategy, the Pharmacy Defence Association (PDA) said track and trace system depends heavily on the mobile phone app and in order to fully support the measures pharmacy staff need to be allowed and encouraged to keep their mobile phones with them while at work
This basic step will be a change for some employers but is a necessary contribution to the success of the system, PDA highlighted.
Pharmacy employers already have a duty to keep their staff safe from infection while at work and that continues.
PDA further noted: “Potentially the track and trace scheme could lead to scenarios where if one member of the pharmacy team develops Covid-19, others, possibly all of their colleagues could be instructed to simultaneously self-isolate.”
The scheme is likely to build up its capacity over the next few weeks and therefore its impact upon society generally.
“Pharmacies must use this window of opportunity to prepare certain mitigation measures, whilst simultaneously still maintaining the existing health and safety measures to protect staff from the virus,” the association said.
According to PDA, the potential mitigation measures may include:
- Dividing the pharmacy team into two or more shifts that never work at the same time, so that they cannot be impacted by contact with a staff member of the other shift.
- Preparing a compliment of locums by making them familiar with the pharmacy ahead of any track and trace consequences and calls for self-isolation so that if the incumbent regular pharmacist and/or pharmacy technician needs to self-isolate another is readily available to keep the pharmacy open.
- Agreeing in advance how, in the worst-case scenario, staff from several pharmacies from different businesses in a local area may work together to maintain a service from one premises in a locality.
- Considering now, how those isolating but not sick might still be able to undertake meaningful work at home in a way that still helps the public, but in a way that maintains the self-isolation, keeps patient data protected and which is compliant with regulations.
PDA has also reminded the pharmacies that the self-isolation and any periods of Covid-19 recovery where members of the team are unavailable for work, will be due to a global pandemic and not because of the individual’s conduct.
“Employers are therefore encouraged in the interest of fair treatment to discount any such absence from absence management processes and to safeguard individuals’ pay,” PDA noted.
The latest measures narrated will have financial impacts on the sector. The PDA has encouraged the contractors’ representatives to lobby government to provide the financial support the sector needs to maintain this vital frontline service.
“The community pharmacy sector has been underfunded for a long time, especially in England, and there has been minimal extra support as this pandemic has impacted. While employers are obliged to make sure that all appropriate safety measures are in place in any event, we urge the government to do more to support the extra costs,” the association said.