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Pharmacies ‘not treated as healthcare setting’ by Test & Trace

The PSNC is urging contractors who are unhappy with decisions made by Covid-19 contact tracers to escalate their case to local public health officials.

The negotiator warned yesterday that despite pharmacies being healthcare settings, Government contact tracers are not taking into account factors such as the use of PPE and other measures to prevent infection.

“This has resulted in cases where one pharmacy staff member tests positive and the whole team is then told to go into self-isolation,” said the PSNC.

In some cases, pharmacies are also struggling to register as employers of essential workers, and some asymptomatic pharmacy staff who are asked to self-isolate “cannot get tested to check if they are negative so they can return to work more quickly,” impacting on the provision of medicines and healthcare services.

The PSNC said that if a staff member tests positive and a contractor is not happy with the decisions made by test and trace workers, the pharmacy should escalate the case to the local Public Health England team and ask for the same mitigations to be taken into account as would be the case for a GP practice or other health provider.

Local NHS England & Improvement teams should also be engaged, the PSNC advised.

Contractors should be “persistent,” the PSNC advised, as it “currently appears that community pharmacies are being treated differently from other healthcare settings”.

PSNC director of operations Gordon Hockey said: “As the Covid-19 outbreak continues it is inevitable that community pharmacy contractors will temporarily lose staff members when they are exposed to the virus and need to follow self-isolation rules.

"However, contractors are increasingly reporting to us that the NHS test and Trace service is causing additional staffing pressures by suggesting that whole teams must self-isolate.

“Pharmacy teams will struggle to continue to maintain vital services for patients if NHS Test and Trace does not take into account the Covid-safe measures, including the use of PPE, that have been put in place to help prevent transmission between co-workers. PSNC is aware that in other healthcare establishments the individual circumstances of the case are considered and is seeking parity for community pharmacies.”

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