COVID-19 and Community Pharmacy – UPDATED 12 March 2020

COVID-19 and Community Pharmacy – UPDATED 12 March 2020

March 4, 2020

The LPC has now included a dedicated page on our website for information and guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) – you can find this at:

Coronavirus COVID-19 and Community Pharmacy

Since the first reports of the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19, through the spread of the disease across the world, there was a risk that at some point this would have an impact on community pharmacies in the UK. Indeed, one pharmacy in the south of England has already  experienced having to cope with having had a suspected case within their premises, and there are many anecdotal incidents of contractors contacting LPCs for advice – for example, one LPC officer reported that a contractor’s delivery driver had taken an item to a patient who told them at handover they were self-isolating as had been showing symptoms of the disease and had been in contact with someone returning from an affected area.
On Friday last (28th February) NHS England & NHS Improvement published a Standard Operating Procedure for community pharmacy which took the general advice to primary care on COVID-19 and made it more “pharmacy specific”. This very much focuses on pharmacy preparation, prevention and actions to be taken in the event of a suspected case arriving in your pharmacy – and should support contractors in adapting their Business Continuity Plan to cope specifically with a potential COVID-19 related outbreak or incident.
Today the government has published its plan for dealing with the outbreak, and although this is very much around national preparations in various scenarios there are some important considerations relevant to community pharmacies – for example, despite the impact on most individuals predicted to be mild to moderate, and self-limiting, it suggests an anticipated 20% of workforce could be affected at peak impact.
Having discussed the above with LPC colleagues there are some key actions which we believe contractors can take to prepare for an incident or outbreak, reduce the risk posed to staff and patients, and mitigate the impact on operations:

  • Review your Business Continuity Plan now to remind yourself and your teams what actions they may need to take in the event of an incident or outbreak
  • Please read the “Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) standard operating procedure – Community pharmacy” document at https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/coronavirus-standard-operating-procedures-for-primary-care-settings/ and either make the preparations and preventative measures recommended, or ensure that discussions take place with relevant line management to ensure that such actions are planned.
  • Staff shortages are a possibility which may severly impact your pharmacy operations – consider ensuring you have up-to-date information on planned staff holidays and other absences. This is particularly important in relation to the upcoming Easter holidays, but also gathering information about whether staff are planning travel to localities significantly affected by COVID-19 – see the Category 1 and Category 2 locations on the PHE webpage HERE
  • Although most cases will not result in hospitalisation or worse, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of complications – these are very similar individuals to those who are at greater risk from seasonal flu. Are there any members of your team who are at greater risk because of this?
  • Regular handwashing is the most effective way of preventing transmission of viruses and protecting yourself, family and colleagues from illness – see the NHS.uk advice at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/best-way-to-wash-your-hands

In addition to the above, it is advisable to keep up to date with developments – for example, if you are not yet signed up to PSNC email updates please do so at: https://psnc.org.uk/latest-news/email-sign-up/. There has this morning been a news story published by PSNC which provides some further information – see https://psnc.org.uk/our-news/covid-19-an-update-for-community-pharmacy/

The PSNC information includes the following important paragraph:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – the NHSE&I guidance recommends that pharmacies have disposable fluid-resistant face masks (“surgical face masks”), disposable gloves and aprons for use in the event that an emergency means that pharmacy staff have to enter a designated isolation space where a person with suspected coronavirus infection is present. The PPE would also be used when decontaminating a designated isolation space, after a person with suspected coronavirus infection has left the premises. Based on the current expert advice, the NHSE&I guidance does not recommend that PPE needs to be used in other circumstances, e.g. when serving patients on the medicines counter.

Pharmacy contractors have reported that PPE, particularly face masks, are currently difficult to source. HM Government is aware of this and they are taking steps to ensure that face masks will be available to order from pharmacy wholesalers, so contractors can obtain supplies for use by staff in the above circumstances.

The LPC will of course keep our contractors and mailing list updated of any relevant local detail which supports or expands on nationally-published information or guidance.

Peter Prokopa

Chief Officer




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