Opinion: Government divorced from reality on PPE with tragic results

By Graham Phillips, Manor Pharmacy Group.

So GPs have locked their doors and are practising from the relative safety of telephone triage and online consultation. Community pharmacy is therefore the de facto front line of the NHS.

Community pharmacists and their teams continue to be exposed to coronavirus and it comes as no surprise that many end up with Covid-19 infections as a result.

To my knowledge at least three community pharmacists and a pharmacy technician have died from Covid-19 to date. This is personal for me – one of my own regular locums ended up in ICU on a ventilator with a tracheostomy. He survived, just, but who knows whether he will return to full health.

I am so saddened by the tragic loss of life of my colleagues. And with every additional life lost I have become incandescent with rage that NHS England continues to insist that community pharmacy teams don’t need PPE because (its leaders claim) we can maintain social distancing. Anyone who has the least experience of working in community pharmacy knows it is an intimate environment necessitating close contact with patients and the public, as well as between members of the pharmacy team.

Is the senior leadership at NHSE so divorced from community pharmacy practice that it can’t recognise the reality or are simply unable due to its unpreparedness to acknowledge this inconvenient truth for political reasons? Maybe because it disturbs the narrative that community pharmacists simply “dole out tablets” and therefore add no value to healthcare. NHS England needs to be challenged on what evidence supports its stance on PPE.

Various members of the senior management team at NHSE are GPhC regulants. As a pharmacist myself, I would expect the GPhC to come knocking were I to expose my own teams and the public to this lethal infection in such a cavalier way.

How many more community pharmacy lives will be sacrificed unless we “speak truth to power”?

I am so saddened by the tragic loss of my colleagues.

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