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Only six cases of Covid-19 among pharmacy staff reported to government

By Isabel Shaw

10 Aug 2020

Community pharmacy employers in Great Britain have only reported six cases of staff contracting Covid-19 since the pandemic began, a written answer to a parliamentary question has revealed.

Between 10 April and 25 July, community pharmacy employers had reported six workplace-related infections (all non-fatal) to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Baroness Stedman-Scott, a minister with the Department of Work and Pensions said.

Under the reporting of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations (RIDDOR), employers must report cases of employees who contracted or died from Covid-19 to HSE – if there is reasonable evidence to suggest they contracted the virus in the pharmacy. However, until now, community pharmacies have reported no instances of Covid-19 among staff.

In response to the latest figure – shared on 5 August 2020 – the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said: ‘Our first thoughts are to send those six individuals our best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.’

The body also encouraged employers who have not already reported previous instances of likely exposure to Covid-19 in their workplace to do so as soon as it is possible.

Last week, the PDA formally wrote to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) expressing concerns that pharmacy stood out as the only sector that had failed to report any cases. It urged the regulator to investigate ‘the unexplained and complete absence of work acquired Covid-19 infection reporting by community pharmacy employers’.

The letter also noted: ‘Confidence in community pharmacy employers properly discharging their duties regarding the health and safety of patients and employees is fundamental. The responsibility lies clearly with employers and the absence of any notifications whatsoever for work acquired Covid infections in the community sector must cast significant doubt on compliance with these strict obligations.’

This comes one month after the PDA voiced concerns over the failure of community pharmacy employers to report incidences of Covid-19 infection.

At the time (6 July), zero cases of Covid-19 in England had been reported to the Health and Safety Executive under RIDDOR.

Paul Day, director of the PDA, said that the organisation found the possibility of no instances of Covid-19 occurring in community pharmacy to be ‘inconceivable’. He suggested that some employers have instead ‘failed’ to meet reporting obligations.

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