Pharmacy leaders have this week written to Ministers and NHS officials in England, with an urgent warning that Test and Trace discrepancies pose a potential threat to the timely supply of medicines to local communities.
Their letter to Public Health Minister Jo Churchill MP asks for her urgent help to achieve a consistent approach across the country.
There have already been several incidents where entire community pharmacy teams have been told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate following a single positive case within the pharmacy. Potentially this means pharmacies closing for up to two weeks at a time.
The current guidance from Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) 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.
Some contact tracers are classifying pharmacies as retail settings, rather than healthcare establishments, and this is leading them to apply different rules than they do for GP practices.
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.”
The 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) are the co-signatories to the letter. They have asked for an urgent response.