The Welsh Government has confirmed that it will be rolling out coronavirus testing, starting next week, to health care workers involved in frontline patient-facing clinical care, including community pharmacy teams.
Over the weekend (21 March), all seven health boards across Wales confirmed that community pharmacy teams were to be included in the scope of those having access to testing.
NHS Wales is the first branch of the nationwide service to confirm that coronavirus tests will be available to all frontline healthcare teams, including community pharmacy staff.
The Welsh Government Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, confirmed that NHS Wales will be increasing its capacity for testing frontline healthcare staff from 800 tests per day to 6,000 per day in April. This is to ensure healthcare workers can continue to help the NHS in its battle against COVID-19.
Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) stressed, however, that pharmacies access to this testing will be limited for the remainder of March, as until the NHS ramps up the number of tests, the service will be prioritising and [pharmacy] staff may come lower down the priority list than ‘some other HCPs’ - staff working in ICUs, for example, currently have priority over the limited number of tests.
A spokesperson from CPW also added: 'We feel that it is good news that community pharmacy teams are being included in the testing moving forward, which should give our colleagues clarity and reflects the important role community pharmacy teams play during this critical period.’
In response to pharmacy teams being one of the later healthcare professions to receive the test, a pharmacist at R J Jones pharmacy in Nefyn, Wales, said: ‘I worry how the lack of testing of pharmacy staff could affect the supply chain if we [community pharmacy teams] are taken off sick because we are symptomatic, it could impact the whole system’.
There should also be some caution about the accuracy of the test, he suggested.
This announcement comes as Public Health Wales confirmed today (March 23) a further four people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in Wales, bringing the country's total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 16.
Meanwhile, 71 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, pushing the overall number of cases to 418, however Public Health Wales have stressed that the true figure is likely to be much higher.
NHS health boards in Scotland are currently in discussions with Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) to ‘sort out’ coronavirus testing for pharmacists across the country, a spokesperson from CPS has told the pharmacist.
‘It has been confirmed that pharmacists [in Scotland] should be able to receive COVID-19 tests; we just can’t say when that will be,’ the spokesperson added.