Track and trace discrepancies could close English pharmacies

 

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.

 

 

GPhC expect pharmacy owners to support tracing services

 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has issued a statement on the COVID-19 tracing services in England, Scotland and Wales.

 

They have stated that they expect pharmacy owners to support the COVID-19 tracing services and that all pharmacy team members have a professional responsibility to self-isolate if contacted by a tracer.

 

The GPhC has asked pharmacy owners to review their business continuity plans and risk assessments after considering the implications of the new track and trace services.

 

Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC commented:

 

“New services to trace people who have been in close contact with people who have tested positive for coronavirus, and to ask them to self-isolate, are being introduced across Great Britain.

 

“We know there are ongoing discussions in England, Scotland and Wales about the potential implications if all pharmacy staff in a team were asked by contact tracers to self-isolate for 14 days.

 

“We would encourage all pharmacy owners to review their business continuity plans and risk assessments after considering these implications and identify any further mitigating actions they could take to reduce the risk of whole pharmacy teams having to self-isolate.

 

“Pharmacy owners should also make sure their teams are familiar with relevant advice and guidance from governments and the NHS in each country and from the professional leadership bodies within pharmacy; the RPS has issued guidance which we support.

 

“We would expect pharmacy owners to support members of their teams to follow relevant guidance, including on reducing risks of transmission, and to comply with any directions from the testing and tracing services within their country.

 

“All members of the pharmacy team have a professional responsibility to self-isolate if asked to do so by the contact tracing team, so they can protect themselves, their colleagues and patients and the public.”

 

 

Test and protect to be rolled out across Scotland

 

Test and Protect – NHS Scotland’s approach to controlling the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community – will be rolled out across all health boards this week.

 

From this Thursday, everyone aged five and over who has COVID-19 symptoms of a new continuous cough, temperature or loss or change in sense of taste or smell should go to NHS Inform online or call 0800 028 2816 to book a test.

 

Under the system, people will need to isolate with their household as soon as they have symptoms and, if they have a positive test result, they will be asked to provide details of all recent close contacts to NHS contact tracers.  Those people will be contacted and asked to isolate for 14 days.

 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

 

“The aim of Test and Protect is to protect the public from spreading COVID-19 and to protect the country from a second peak.

 

“By ensuring those who may have come into contact with the virus take steps to isolate, we can break the chains of transmission and keep the virus suppressed whilst slowly changing lockdown measures.

 

“This approach can only work if we all play our part. From Thursday, we are asking everyone aged five and over who has COVID-19 symptoms – a new continuous cough, temperature or loss or change in sense of taste or smell – to book a test as soon as possible.

 

“It is important to do this as soon as symptoms are suspected. The quicker the virus can be identified, the better chance there is of stopping it spreading.

 

“It remains vital that alongside Test and Protect people continue to follow physical distancing advice and practise good hand and cough hygiene.”

 

Cllr Stuart Currie , COSLA Health and Social Care spokesperson, said:

 

“COVID-19 continues to have an impact on all of our daily lives and it is important that we carefully manage the transition out of lockdown.  That is why we welcome the Test and Protect guidance that has been co-produced by Scottish Government and NHS Scotland in partnership with Local Government.

 

“It is vital that people work together to follow this advice and self-isolate when required, not just for their own safety, but in order to protect others. Only by taking this approach will we be able to slow the spread of the virus.

 

“Local Government has already been at the forefront of efforts to support people during lockdown, providing essential services and assistance to the many people in Scotland who don’t have a network of support in place.  We will continue to support our communities by taking a central role in the delivery of Test and Protect.”

 

 

This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.

 

Contact tracing technology to be trialled across Scotland

 

NHS Scotland Contact tracing technology will be tested in NHS Fife, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Highland from today.

 

The pilot, which is expected to last two weeks, will allow the health boards to test out the software which contact tracers will use to collect the information that they need digitally. This builds on existing contact tracing technology in place across the NHS and will allow health boards to trace more contacts faster.

 

This is the first step in moving towards an extended test, trace, isolate and support (TTIS) approach which will be used to keep the transmission in communities low as the country moves out of lockdown.

 

Scottish Government has said that over 600 additional staff from the NHS are ready to begin this work, as part of the process of recruiting up to 2000 staff.

 

The software will be rolled out to all health boards by the end of May and then further enhanced during June.

 

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

 

“Technology will be an important tool to help us move towards the test, trace, isolate and support approach and safely exit lockdown.

 

“Currently, Health Boards across Scotland do some contact tracing, based on risk assessments. And as part of our build-up of contact-tracing staff, an open recruitment process is underway to supplement the increase in contract tracing teams Boards are currently working on. We now have 600 additional staff across our NHS boards who are ready to start and more are being trained as contact tracers.

 

“From today, NHS Fife, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Highland will test the contact tracing technology that health boards will use. This builds on existing tried and tested technology, and is designed to support staff to collect and record information, and to trace more contacts more quickly.

 

“Together with the growing number of contact tracers the technology allows us to carry out contact tracing on the much larger scale that will be needed.

 

“The software which is being tested next week, will be used in all health boards by the end of May and will continue to be refined and improved during June. It will play a valuable role in improving the speed and effectiveness of our work to test, trace, isolate and support.

 

“The software we are developing in Scotland is built on a tried and trusted platform and will allow us to carry out contact tracing on a much larger scale than has been necessary until now. It will also focus on supporting public health teams identify outbreaks and reduce transmission in high-risk groups and settings by making it easier for staff to collect and record information.

 

“The test, trace, isolate and support approach is about breaking the chain of transmission of the virus but it remains vital that alongside this people continue to follow physical distancing advice and practise good hand and cough hygiene.”

 

 

This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.