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Public Health England to issue PPE packs to community pharmacies

By Isabel Shaw

10 Mar 2020

Community pharmacies will be supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE) courtesy of Public Health England from later this week.

In a letter NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) sent yesterday (9 March) to community pharmacies, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, Dr Keith Ridge, said that a PPE pack containing gloves, aprons and fluid repellent face masks will be delivered to pharmacies in England from later this week and early next week.

It follows NHS England’s decision to provide general practices with similar packs, which The Pharmacist’s sister publication, Pulse, revealed last week.

NHSE&I’s letter was the first in a series of regular updates to be issued to community pharmacies regarding the worsening coronavirus outbreak.

It stated that for now, PPE should be ordered via normal wholesalers in small quantities and only used by pharmacy staff and isolated patients.

PPE must only be used by pharmacy staff and patients who are thought to be infected with Covid-19 and who have been isolated, and not be sold on to the public, the letter stressed.

Dr Ridge also warned pharmacy staff not to facilitate patients in stockpiling prescription medications because of its potential impact on the supply chain. 

The letter also noted that the NHS will wavier the National Antimicrobial Stewardship Clinical Audit for 2019/2020.

Pharmacy staff are also reminded to familiarise themselves with any updated standard operating procedures (SOPs) published by NHSE&I.

The latest updated SOPs outlined that community pharmacies may need to close temporarily for cleaning of communal areas, but that otherwise, they should follow usual business continuity arrangements and remain open unless advised to close by their local health protection team.

Meanwhile, the General Pharmaceutical Council has said it is ‘keeping the situation relating to coronavirus under active review’ and would not rule out suspending inspections if the Covid-19 outbreak continues to worsen.

The Council’s chief executive, Duncan Rudkin, said in a statement: ‘We are in close contact with governments, NHS and other organisations and are preparing appropriately for potential options and scenarios, including in relation to pharmacy inspections.’

Read the letter in full here.

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