The government should be prepared to financially support any community pharmacies that are forced to shut down premises’ because their staff are required to self-isolate through the new test, track and trace system, a member of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Independent SAGE) said today. 

In a press briefing today (9 June), Professor Allyson Pollock, co-director of Newcastle University’s Centre of Excellence in Regulatory Sciences, UK, and Independent SAGE member, said that pharmacies 'should be supported by the government if there is an outbreak amongst staff [...] or staff have to go into quarantine,’ in response to a question asked by the Pharmacist. 

Pharmacy teams may have a greater chance than average of being in contact with people with Covid-19 symptoms, and, therefore, of being required to self-isolate as a result of contact tracing. 

Access to pharmacies is ‘vital’ during the pandemic, which is why the government should provide support so they can remain open, suggested Professor Pollock. 

Independent SAGE released a report today saying people who cannot self-isolate for 14 days because of financial reasons should be supported by the government to do so: ' We recommend that a strategy should be developed to ensure that those in isolation receive appropriate and acceptable support, recognising that this will require inputs from many different agencies.'

In its critical analysis of the government's test, track and trace system, the body stressed that 80% of all potentially infected people must be traced by the programme to work. Therefore, it is vital to ensure all those that are contacted can self-isolate by providing them with the support they need.

Since the implementation of the test, track and trace programme across England late last month (May 28) many pharmacy contractors and pharmacy bodies have raised concerns.

PSNC CEO, Simon Dukes recently said that the new system could ‘close pharmacies pretty rapidly’. He believed that a pharmacy had already been forced to close because of test, track and trace. 

A spokesperson from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) commented that they were aware of ‘concerns about the potential implications around pharmacy teams having to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19. The organisation was working to ‘ensure the safety of pharmacy teams and to reduce any unintended impact on practice and patient care,’ they said. 

SAGE members did not comment on a further question asking whether or not pharmacy teams and other healthcare professions should be exempt from the programme’s requirement to self-isolate. 

However, a Department of Health (DH) spokesperson told the Pharmacist last week that pharmacy teams would be made exempt from the ‘test and trace’ programme and would not have to self-isolate if they wore the 'correct' personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Until now, pharmacies have struggled to obtain and continual supply of PPE. However, earlier this week the NHSE&I announced that community pharmacy wholesalers have ‘adequate’ supplies of PPE available for pharmacy teams.