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Viral infections

One in three pharmacists unable to access PPE, finds RPS survey

The survey of 445 pharmacists also found that 94% of respondents could not maintain social distancing of two metres from other staff in their pharmacy.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

To learn more about coronavirus, please visit: https://www.rpharms.com/resources/pharmacy-guides/wuhan-novel-coronavirus

Pharmacy sign about coronavirus

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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society recommends that anyone working in a pharmacy who cannot maintain two metres social distance from either patients or other staff members should wear a fluid-resistant (type IIR) surgical mask

A third of pharmacists cannot obtain continuous supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to a survey conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).

The survey found that 34% of respondents said they were not able to source continued supplies of PPE as they work in the face of COVID-19.

The poll of 445 pharmacists also revealed that 94% were unable to maintain social distancing of two metres from other staff in their pharmacy, mainly because the pharmacies — and the dispensaries in particular — were too small. A further 40% of respondents said they were unable to maintain social distancing of two metres from patients.

The results of the survey, which ran between 14 and 20 April 2020, have come after Public Health England (PHE) updated its PPE guidance on 10 April 2020, which recommends that pharmacy staff only wear fluid-resistant (type IIR) surgical masks (FRSMs) when in “contact with possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19” and not around other pharmacy staff.

Commenting on the results, Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said: “[The Society] strongly recommends that everyone working in a pharmacy who is unable to maintain two metres social distance from either patients or other staff members should wear a FRSM.”

“We are still hearing too many examples where pharmacy teams are finding it difficult to source the PPE they need to keep them safe in line with our recommendations,” she said. “There should be no compromise on safety for pharmacy teams and PPE supplies to pharmacy need to reflect this.”

Gidley added that without sufficient PPE, “pharmacists and their staff could end up spreading the virus, as well as being unable to work because of sickness”.

“It is essential the government steps up and provides sufficient PPE to enable pharmacists to face the realities of working in a pharmacy during the pandemic,” she said.

Pharmacists have previously told The Pharmaceutical Journal that they have been unable to access PPE for their staff, with others saying the PHE guidance has been “based on an armchair view of what community pharmacy is and does”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207919

Readers' comments (3)

  • How should PPE such as masks and gloves be used in a community pharmacy dispensary where it is not possible to maintain a 2m distance from other members of the pharmacy team?
    For example if one pharmacist and two dispensers are working a busy 8 hour dispensing shift in a small cramped pharmacy with three breaks out side the pharmacy during the shift:
    How often should the masks and gloves be changed?
    What is the correct procedure for putting on and removing gloves and masks?
    How is the used PPE disposed of?
    Do new masks have to be used every time the mask is removed to take a drink?
    If gloves are not worn hands are washed regularly throughout the day probably more than once an hour. Should gloved hands be washed regularly or should the gloves be changed ? Gloves get very dirty very quickly.
    Should plastic visors be worn? If so how are they cleaned, how often are they cleaned and how should they be stored? How are they used with prescription glasses?

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  • On PPE. Some info on re-cycling of PPE here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPZiqaKwsRE&t=855s
    I've been liaising with healthcare workers in Korea, China and TW. They've a different approach but much can be learned. On Siriol's points:
    1. It's impossible to maintain 2m distance in a busy dispensary. No point even trying. PPE is your only option. However, 2m vital during lunch or breaks when PPE impractical
    2. Assume daily. Can wear cotton gloves under your surgical gloves. Korean pharmacists aren't gloved but hand-wash frequently. Key is not to touch face (Masks help). Recycle as needed. Keep/label your own pens/scissors (I sling them around my neck on an elastic - like a scarf. Keep wipes near phone.
    3. We have a separate bin/bag for PPE and related waste handled by customers. Wash white coats nightly
    4. We disinfect the dispensary/front of shop (Milton diluted 1 in 10) at lunch (we now close for an hour) and during the day.
    5. Visors more important if within 2m and if your masks aren't any better than surgical masks. Awkward to use with Rx-glasses but c'est la vie.

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  • It's impossible to keep 2m apart in a dispensary .
    Official guidance on the wearing of face masks should urgently be sent out to all pharmacies in order to protect ourselves and the public.

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