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Pharmacists challenged by social distancing

Pharmacists ‘unable to maintain social distancing’ at work and risk infection.

A new snapshot survey of pharmacists from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society shows that the majority of pharmacists are unable to maintain social distancing at work and one in three still can’t get continuous supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A huge 94% of respondents said they were unable to maintain 2m social distancing from other staff in their workplace. This is because pharmacies, and their dispensaries in particular, are often small and simply don’t allow for social distancing. Another 40% of respondents said they were unable to maintain social distancing from patients.

In addition to the practical difficulties they face, 34% of respondents said they are unable to source continuous supplies of PPE to protect themselves from potential infection by the public or colleagues at work.

RPS President Sandra Gidley said: “It’s clear the vast majority of frontline pharmacy teams are unable to maintain safe social distancing either from staff or patients. They must have access to PPE to protect themselves, their patients and their families.

“We strongly recommend that everyone working in a pharmacy who is unable to maintain 2m social distance from either patients or other staff members should wear a fluid resistant surgical mask.

‘We are still hearing too many examples where pharmacy teams are finding it difficult to source the PPE they need to keep them safe in line with our recommendations. There should be no compromise on safety for pharmacy teams and PPE supplies to pharmacy need to reflect this.

“Pharmacy teams are essential in the battle against this pandemic and patients are depending on us more than ever. Teams must be safeguarded if pharmacy services are going to be able to continue to function.

“If they are insufficiently protected, pharmacists and their staff could end up spreading the virus, as well as being unable to work because of sickness. It is essential the Government steps up and provides sufficient PPE to enable pharmacists to face the realities of working in a pharmacy during the pandemic.”

Case study examples include the following accounts:

In Bristol, Pharmacist Ade Williams runs Bedminster Pharmacy. Ade says it’s not possible to maintain social distancing from colleagues, and he says sometimes the public too – for example, if they come in with a condition like a rash which needs close examination. He tried ordering PPE and gave up after he and his team were provided with face shields by a local charity. Ade is a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society for distinction in pharmacy practice.

In London, Pharmacist Raj Matharu runs Broadway Pharmacies in Greater London. He has found he can’t get enough PPE and is currently running low. He says it’s not possible to maintain social distancing from staff in either of his pharmacies, and feels a responsibility to ensure his teams feel safe. He wants to stay open to help patients, but also wants his staff to feel safe to come to work. He currently has two members of his family who need to be shielded.

Pharmacist Ash Soni runs a community pharmacy in London and is former President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. He has found it can be difficult sourcing PPE and maintaining social distancing in a pharmacy, both from colleagues and patients.

Photo credit: Shutterstock /By i_photos

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