Pharmacies across the UK have begun to shut their doors and serve patients through windows or hatches to limit contact with patients, in a bid to keep staff safe from coronavirus.

Some pharmacies have escalated their approach, often in the absence of adequate supplies of PPE, hoping to lessen their chances of contracting and spreading the virus.

After deciding that their one-in-one-out system – that many pharmacies across the country are using to ensure social distancing -- wasn’t enough, Seacliffe Pharmacy in Whitehaven started the new approach two weeks ago.

'This was a necessary next step'

Pharmacy director, Charles Whitfield Bott, told The Pharmacist: ‘People were still coming into my pharmacy coughing and spluttering and not behaving responsibly, so this was the necessary next step I had to take to keep my pharmacy open while also keeping my staff safe.

‘When we had patients entering the pharmacy regularly, we were having to constantly disinfect the door and items in the shop in between patients' visits -- which just wasn’t possible,’ he explained.

‘And PPE is just pointless. We don’t have enough masks to change them regularly enough, and gloves are pointless too -- it's so easy to accidentally touch your face when wearing them. The best way to avoid catching the virus is to simply avoid direct patient contact -- which is what we’ve now done.’

'My staff feel a lot safer'

The pharmacy team now greets patients through a window at the front of the store. ‘We’re fortunate in that our building is relatively new and that there are large windows by the pavement at the front which we can open,’ he said. ‘We can also move the till and card machine to the front easily.’

So far, the team has been very happy with the results: ‘My staff feel a lot safer and are very happy with the development.’

Seacliffe Pharmacy: a new window service

Haxby Group Pharmacy, in Yorkshire, tested a similar initiative this Easter weekend, which allowed patients to drive up to the window of the pharmacy to collect their prescriptions.

The public responded well to the 'drive-thru' system

One pharmacist at Haxby group Pharmacy, Katie Irwin, said: ‘We decided to try it out to provide a little more safety for us, as well as our patients who may be a little hesitant to come into the building. The previous one-in-one-out system had caused large queues to form outside the building, which was worrying some patients,' she said.

Ms Irwin reported that the public responded well to the 'drive-thru' system, ‘We’ve had some really positive feedback, our patients feel a lot safer, and it was a lot more convenient for many of them.’

Pharmacies in England are to offer a delivery service to ensure that very vulnerable patients will receive prescriptions safely and do not need to visit a pharmacy themselves.

Yesterday, Public Health England released a new set of posters for pharmacies to help promote key messages to the public to help to limit the spread of Covid-19.

What’s happening in your area? Contact Isabel at [email protected] with any information that would be useful for us to share with community pharmacy colleagues