Some 82% of pharmacists believe that patients visiting a healthcare setting — including a pharmacy — should be required to wear a mask, a survey has found.  

A further three-quarters (75%) of the 2,381 pharmacists in the UK who responded to the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) survey, which was conducted ahead of the recent relaxing of restrictions announcement, said they believed that staff should also have to wear a face covering.  

This comes as the Government announced on Monday (12 July) that face masks in certain settings — including pharmacies — will no longer be mandatory in England as of next week.  

The guidance, updated yesterday, comes into effect on 19 July when the UK moves into its final step of lockdown easing, as confirmed by the health secretary yesterday afternoon.   

Mark Pitt, director of defence services at the PDA, is calling on pharmacy employers to show leadership and require the wearing of masks in pharmacies. 

‘We are still in the middle of a pandemic and employers will be held to account if they do not ensure a safe workplace,’ he said.  

‘This is a critical time for pharmacy employers to demonstrate leadership and maintain the requirements for safety measures, including mask-wearing, in their pharmacies. 

‘A consistent approach across the profession will help keep pharmacies a safe healthcare environment for patients and staff alike.’ 

‘The responsible Pharmacist’s role is to secure the safe and effective running of the registered pharmacy and the PDA will robustly support members who make an informed professional decision to enforce safety measures they feel are necessary.’ 

When asked whether they will continue to enforce mandatory face masks in their pharmacy, LloydsPharmacy told The Pharmacist yesterday they are ‘finalising [their] position on this following last night’s [Monday’s] announcement and guidance’.  

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive officer at Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told Tthe Pharmacist yesterday (13 July) it was ‘too early to say what the direction of travel of our members will be as their actions will be informed by localised risk assessments, best practise and from their in-depth practical knowledge of operating community pharmacies.’ 

A Boots spokesperson also told Tthe Pharmacist that they cannot yet confirm what the multiple plans are regarding the new guidance.   

Governments in devolved nations Scotland and Wales have stated that face masks and other measures will continue to be a requirement in health and social care.  

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed yesterday (13 July 2021) that face coverings will continue to be mandatory in Scotland, ‘not just now but, in all likelihood, for some time to come’. 

She also said: 'Measures like the continued wearing of face coverings are important, not just to give added protection to the population as a whole, but also to give protection and assurance to those amongst us who are particularly vulnerable and previously had to shield.’  

The Government in Wales confirmed last week that face masks will remain mandatory on public transport and in health and social care settings ‘until Covid-19 is no longer a public health threat’.