PSNC has reminded contractors that if they disagree with ‘an assessment or an identification of a recent close contact’ by the NHS Test and Trace service, they should ask to escalate the case to the contact tracer’s supervisor for review.
The body added that ‘where there are implications for the continued provision of pharmacy services’, contractors should escalate the case to their local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team, which is the highest level of contact tracers.
The Test and Trace service aims to help trace recent close contacts of anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 and, if necessary, tells these people that they must self-isolate.
Under government guidance, close contact is defined as having face-to-face contact with someone less than one metre away (including when wearing a face mask or covering), spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of someone, and travelling in a car or other small vehicle with someone (even on a short journey), or close to them on a plane.
The guidance also states that the use of face masks and other forms of PPE ‘does not exclude somebody from being considered a close contact’, unless they are providing direct care with patients or residents in a health and care setting.
PSNC said in its bulletin: ‘If one member of pharmacy staff tests positive for coronavirus, the contact tracer may contact the pharmacy and assess whether other pharmacy staff members should be asked to self-isolate. The result may be that the pharmacy has to close.’
It added: ‘PSNC considers that any assessment of a close contact between pharmacy staff ought to take into account the use of PPE (including its type and situational appropriateness) and other mitigating factors that may reduce the risk of infection transmissions to such an extent that the individual identified as a contact does not need to self-isolate.’
Gordon Hockey, director of operations and support at PSNC, told the Pharmacist that a very small number of contractors have had to escalate contact tracing assessments to date.
He added: ‘We are just keen that the right assessment is made, taking into account all factors including the use of PPE and other measures, and the desire to maintain continuity of service.’