The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has highlighted the need for pharmacy contractors to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to pharmacists and their teams to guard against Covid-19, shingles and other viruses.

According to the PDA, health and safety issues have been raised by members regarding protection from infection, with some concerned that adequate PPE is not always made readily available.

In correspondence with the PDA, David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, confirmed that for locums and employed pharmacists, ‘pharmacy contractors are responsible for the health and safety of staff providing pharmaceutical services’.

Mr Webb added that advice from NHS England (NHSE) is that ‘pharmacy contractors review national guidance on infection prevention and control available here’.

According to the PDA, some community pharmacists have expressed concerns about seeing patients with shingles as part of the Pharmacy First service, particularly when the staff member might be pregnant.

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that pregnant individuals should avoid contact with people with shingles.

Mr Webb told the union that ‘pharmacy contractors should cover this as part of standard operating procedures and risk assessments’.

He added: ‘Under health and safety legislation, employers have a legal duty to ensure suitable and sufficient risk assessments are carried out and adequate control measures are put in place to reduce the risk of harm to staff and patients, so far as is reasonably practicable.’

The PDA has urged pharmacists concerned with any health and safety issue at their workplace to highlight it through the relevant company procedures and contact their local PDA rep.

The concerns raised by the union follow a warning by NHSE that community pharmacies are among the ‘most likely’ places to encounter measles, with staff instructed to ‘take appropriate action’ and wear PPE.